Nick Clegg Launches Lib Dem Manifesto

(Guardian) – THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS today projected themselves as the only party that is telling the truth about the economy and promised to “hard-wire” fairness into British society.

At the last of three main party manifesto launches, the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, accused Labour and the Conservatives of having “airbrushed the economy” from their election platforms.

Clegg said his party would claw back 10% of the £40bn lost to the exchequer through tax evasion every year, promising to deliver “the most radical, far-reaching tax reforms in a generation”.

Vince Cable, the party’s treasury spokesman, said the economy was the “elephant in the room” of the election campaign.

Within hours of the launch, at the headquarters of the Bloomberg financial information service in the City of London, Labour said the Lib Dems had underestimated their plan to raise personal tax allowances to £10,000 by £5bn.

The Tories said there was a £10bn “black hole” in the plans.

“All governments want to ensure that people and businesses are paying tax that it’s appropriate for them to be paying, but the Liberal Democrats are making significant claims about this which simply don’t stack up,” the shadow work and pensions secretary, Theresa May, told the BBC.

But the Lib Dems insisted they were fully costed, and said they were the only party being honest about the levels of forthcoming spending restraints.

Cable acknowledged he would have to find further savings to complete the process of getting the deficit under control.

“When you put that together, you’ve got total cuts of £10bn a year,” he said. “You might say: ‘Well that’s fine, but you’ve not solved the problem.'”

Cable said that, unlike Labour and the Conservatives, the Lib Dems admitted there would have to be deep cuts after the election.

Although the Lib Dems did not explicitly rule out income tax or VAT rises, Cable said the party’s plans did not require an increase in tax.

“We’re not advocating an increase in taxation,” he said. “British families and businesses are taxed enough already … but it is important that we have a sense of fairness and the solidarity behind that.”

In his speech, Clegg set out to portray the Lib Dems as the party of fairness, with a pledge that nobody would pay income tax on the first £10,000 of earnings.

The party leader said this would be worth £700 a year to millions of people on low and middle incomes, and would free 3.6 million people earning less than £10,000 from paying income tax at all.

Party sources rejected Labour’s suggestion that the policy was poorly costed, saying the Institute for Fiscal Studies would endorse the figures. “The Labour party are making three assumptions that are not true. They think we are also increasing the 40p rate as well as the £10,000 tax threshold, which we are not.

“They are also saying that we are increasing above £10,000 the higher rate of tax-free personal allowance that the over-65s currently get, but we are not. And they don’t acknowledge the fact that we are phasing out the tax free allowance for those on over £100,000.”

The party said its plans would be paid for by the proposals on tax avoidance, as well as a number of other cost-cutting measures. There will be a £400 pay rise cap for public sector workers, government payments into child trust funds would end, child tax credits worth £1.3bn for high earners would be cut, and the availability of winter fuel payments to younger pensioners would be reduced.

The Lib Dems would scrap ID cards and the national intercept database, cut the Eurofighter military jet contract, scale back the HomeBuy shared ownership scheme, reform regional development agencies and scrap seven quangos.

“The other parties have airbrushed the economy out of this election,” Clegg said.

“They are treating people like fools, imagining that manifestos barely fit for times of plenty are enough now. We will give hope married with credibility.

“The two other parties have taught us to expect so little. Our manifesto says, emphatically, no to that kind of politics.

“If you have ever looked at the Lib Dems and thought: ‘Have they got the right ideas?’, this manifesto is your answer. We can and we will.”