U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called for higher taxes on the most expensive properties and unearned wealth at the start of his Liberal Democrat party’s annual conference.
Clegg told the conference in Brighton on England’s south coast last night that he wants to “go further” in increasing taxes on the “very rich” while cutting taxes for the poor. The Liberal Democrats have lost support since breaking a pre-election pledge not to raise university tuition fees, something Clegg apologized for on Sept. 19. A pop single satirizing that apology, remixing his words to music, entered the Top 40 iTunes downloads yesterday.
“I want to reward people who put in a proper shift, not those who sit on a fortune; people for whom a bonus means a few extra quid at Christmas, not a million-pound windfall,” Clegg said. “It’s just wrong that people on low and middle incomes who work hard and play by the rules are taxed so much while Russian oligarchs pay the same council tax as some people do on a family home.”
With the conference being held under the slogan “Fairer tax in tough times,” party members will be asked on Sept. 25 to vote on a motion calling for “increasing taxes on unearned income and wealth,” as Clegg seeks to emphasize differences with Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, which leads the coalition government.
“It is no secret that we have different priorities to our coalition partners,” Clegg told party activists. “I can do my bit around the Cabinet table, but most of the seats at that table are occupied by Conservatives, not Liberal Democrats. So I need you to do your bit the old-fashioned way: getting out there and campaigning.”
The Independent newspaper quoted Clegg as saying in an interview published yesterday that he would block any plans by Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to save 10 billion pounds ($16 billion) by concentrating on reducing welfare spending.
“That’s totally unacceptable to me,” Clegg was cited as saying.
“In these next rounds of savings it is vitally, vitally important that the burden of those is, and is seen to be, fairly shared,” Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander told Liberal Democrat activists in Brighton yesterday. “We expect as part of this process there will be measures to ensure the wealthiest in society are making a contribution commensurate with their means. That is the only way we can get through this process and make the further decisions which we absolutely have to make for the good of this country.”
Clegg appointed Alexander yesterday to take charge of the party’s search for an alternative nuclear deterrent to the current Trident submarine-based system. “I am more determined than ever to find the right alternative to such a monumentally expensive replacement for a Cold War deterrent,” Clegg said.
Support for the Liberal Democrats has dropped to 10 percent or less in recent opinion polls from more than 23 percent in the 2010 election.
The conference lasts until Sept. 26, when it will be closed by a keynote speech from Clegg.