Archive for March, 2009

Mike Simpson has been selected as the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South West Surrey. He secured 80% of the votes of party members.

Mike says, “Now the real work begins – winning the votes of the people of South West Surrey. I don’t underestimate how much hard work I will have to put in to achieve that, but I think increasingly people are having doubts about the desirability of having another Tory government. The Liberal Democrats are certainly coming up in the opinion polls and that’s partly because we have consistently shown wisdom in our economic policies and a strong standing with the public on environmental and civil liberties issues.”

Mike Simpson writes: Ken Clarke, the man the Tories rejected 3 times for leader, set off a round of infighting in the Conservative Party over the weekend. He said that the Tory promise to end inheritance tax for all but millionaires was now only “an aspiration” which the party hoped to get around to “sooner or later”. This immediately started a panic in Tory party headquarters (and no doubt in many local Conservative party branches where the inheritance tax pledge had been welcomed by the right wing of the party).

On Monday a series of leading Tories sought to clarify the position. They say they will cut inheritance tax if elected, no matter what other pressures there are on the government’s finances. Ken was forced to back down. The true nature of Tory economic policy has been exposed. With the government massively in debt, the Tory priority, if they were elected, would be to cut taxes for the better off. With falling house prices it is a very small group who would benefit from their proposals, given that the Labour Government have already changed the inheritance tax threshold (for married couples there is no inheritance tax on estates left of up to £600,000).

You might think that in the current economic climate a pledge to help the well-off would be a low priority given that there are already 2 million out of work and millions more deeply in debt. By the time of the General Election (probably in a year from now) there are likely to be 3 million out of work and many people having their homes repossessed. I remember how brutal the economic policy of the Conservatives was in past recessions, so their current policy is no surprise to me. In the 80’s and 90’s there were savage cuts in public services and yet the rich were gifted huge tax cuts. It is right to say that now there should be higher priorities than further cuts to inheritance tax, but the Tory party has not really changed. Their instinct is to slash services for the vulnerable whilst reducing taxes for the better-off. So much for the new caring image of the party!

As we approach the next election I predict that the focus of political debate will increasingly be on what is to be done in respect of the deplorable state of the government’s finances. Liberal Democrats must continue to fight for a fair tax system and for heavy government funding in several key areas including education, the NHS, support for the elderly and vulnerable and for our green agenda (which by the way will create new jobs). We cannot spare resources for more tax cuts for the well-off at a time of such economic pain for ordinary people.

Tory Failure in Surrey

Mike Simpson says, “Today Lord Laming presented his review of child protection services. The Tories said it was an ‘indictment of the state of child protection’ in England. I say that is hypocritical given the scandalous state of child protection services in Tory-controlled Surrey, a wealthy County with services rated as low as Haringey, infamous for the Baby P scandal.

Tory-run Surrey is one of only four Council’s to be awarded just one star by the Audit Commission for its performance in 2008.

This came after Ofsted’s Joint Area Review (JAR), published in July, found the Tory run County Council was failing vulnerable children.

The Audit Commission’s summary of Surrey County Council said: “Services for vulnerable children and young people do not meet minimum requirements and safeguarding is inadequate.”

Shockingly the JAR had revealed that council workers in contact with vulnerable youngsters had not even undergone Criminal Records Bureau Checks (CRB).

Disabled children were also found to be staying at home because there was not enough care for them at school and teenage abortion rates were among the highest in the UK.

I have managed services for vulnerable young people for many years and I know how tough it can be to deliver the highest standards but the response of the Tories in Surrey is truly shocking. Astonishingly, instead of accepting the need to improve services, the Tory controlled Council has applied to the High Court for a review of Ofsted’s assessment of its children’s services. The Tory leader of Surrey said the appeal to the High Court was necessary because a one-star rating would lead to increased inspections for the council, which would cost more money!

Lord Laming said that child protection issues in England had not been given “the priority they deserved” and that a lack of funding had made child protection a “Cinderella service”.

That has certainly been the case in Tory-controlled Surrey.

It is nothing short of a disgrace. I am sorry to say that this fits the pattern of the Conservative approach to services for the vulnerable and it is one more reason why we cannot afford to have a return to Conservative government in our country.

View Lord Laming’s full report here.

Read more about Mike Simpson

Mike Simpson says, “I met a small-businessman in Haslemere recently. He was agonising about how to respond to falling orders. He was considering cutting his Directors’ salaries in half or laying off staff or probably having to do both.

That is the kind of human cost faced every day by businesses. The Conservatives have nothing to offer.

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The Liberal Democrats are making the running on responding to the financial crisis, not least because of our superb Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable.

Many people remember only too well the last time the Tories were running our economy and how little they helped ordinary people suffering through hard economic times, including mass unemployment. The instincts of the Conservative Party are the same today – let the market rule – and look where the unregulated free-market has got us!

In fact it was Margaret Thatcher who started the process of financial de-regulation that led to unsustainable bank lending.

Many ordinary people have been saying for years that the credit boom was bound to end in tears. In the 1990s I managed housing for young people with high support needs. Many had been homeless or had drug problems. Most were unemployed. My staff and I were regularly shocked by the mail that residents received – offers of credit cards for 18 to 25 year olds with barely two pence to rub together! I personally worked with several who had built up thousands of pounds of debt.

As an Economics Graduate I have always been a supporter of John Maynard Keynes’ economic policy ideas, but he was out of fashion in the Tory years. Instead the ideas of Milton Friedman were allowed full reign. And that is the beginning of the story of this current financial crisis…

One thing’s for sure – the Tory concept of unregulated banking has been an unmitigated disaster. It was also heartless in its application across the world. Now new solutions are needed for these uncertain times. Read about our Liberal Democrat prescription by clicking here: ‘Cable rebukes ‘zombie government’ for betraying taxpayers’

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