When I first joined the old Liberal Party, they used to sell orange pencils with "Another good thing stolen from the Liberals." John Maynard Keynes famously lamented that the Liberals provided Labour with ideas and Conservatives with cabinets.
There is nothing new in good ideas being "stolen" by other parties. We should welcome it if good ideas are taken on board and implemented.
But the big Tory hypocrisy was to pretend that the ideas had been their own!
Many of the proposals announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review, which the Conservatives claimed were their own, had actually originally been proposed by the Liberal Democrats. They include:
- Charging aviation tax on planes, not passengers (passed by Liberal Democrat conference in 2004)
- Taxing non-domiciles (passed by Liberal Democrat conference in 2007 at the start of the conference season and published long beforehand in the conference agenda)
- Increasing the inheritance tax threshold (similarly passed by Liberal Democrat conference in 2007 and published as a motion long beforehand)
For the Tories to be complaining about the government stealing their policies is like a gang of thieves protesting about their houses being burgled.
However the similarities between Labour and the Conservatives mean that there are core areas of tax policy which neither are willing to tackle.
Both have failed to come up with any measures to help the poorest in society or alternatives to the discredited Council Tax, which is now due to rise at double the rate of inflation.
Only the Liberal Democrats are arguing for a substantial switch from taxes on income to taxes on pollution.
The flat rate poll tax both parties have proposed for non-doms would completely fail to make the likes of Roman Abramovich pay their fair share of tax.