Vote For Change?

Well, it’s the day before the 2010 General Election in the UK, and I thought I’d pop up and air my views in public for the last time before the event.

I wrote a nice long note on Facebook the other day about it but, when I pressed the “Submit” button, it said I had to log in and then the text disappeared – what a bitch!

So – who shall I vote for?

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure but I know it won’t be Labour or Liberal Democrat. The choice really is between Conservative, just to make sure I can’t be blamed for them not winning my seat, or UKIP because I think Conservative will win my seat and it pains me deeply to even consider voting for them. The socialist Scottish upbringing has a lot to answer for!

So why not Labour or LibDem? Well, it’s a long story. In 1997 Labour inherited one of the strongest economies in Europe and look at us now! Thirteen years later and we’re close to bankrupt. Gordon Brown regularly claims “global economy blah blah blah” yet how come we seem to have been hit the hardest of the major economies in Europe? How come it was our currency that was diving against both the Euro and the US Dollar? If it was such a global economy, why wasn’t everyone hit much the same in which case I wouldn’t have expected to see any significant changes in the exchange rates. At this point I have to admit that I’m really not that clued up on how all this finance stuff works but my point is really that, if there’s a global economic downturn and we’re hit harder than most other developed nations, then surely that would point to something in the way the country is being run being sub-optimal!

I read a number of interesting statistics the other day. Admittedly they were in The News Of The World so I’m not sure whether to believe them 100% or not, but they were very intriguing. The stats are related to spending on the NHS and education, both places where Labour claims they’ve increased spending “in real terms” by significant amounts. In Education we’re spending something like 3 times as much money now compared to when Labour took over government, yet there are still 250,000 children leaving primary education unable to read or write. In the NHS spending has increased significantly yet the rate of increase in the number of managerial roles is 3 times that of actual nursing roles. To me this all sounds like wasted money and it seems that a lot of the money used to cover these increases has been borrowed!

As for LibDem, well, as a number of people have pointed out, their manifesto and policies remain as those of a party who were not expecting to govern and therefore they could say what they like. Despite their claims that they’re the only party to publish figures to back up their budget claims, they still seem very naive. Their policies may sound nice, at least some of the ones they’ve mentioned in debates, but will they work? Other than the obvious policies which could lead to even futher loss of sovereignty, my main concern with the LibDems is that, despite so much compelling evidence coming to light recently questioning the anthopogenic origin of “global warming”, they still seem to be embracing AGW as fact in a big way. They have policies like extracting billions of pounds from the roads budget and investing it in public transport. Now there are 30million drivers in the UK who will be affected by this. We’re not talking about the cost of fuel here, we’re talking about cancelled road building projects, maintenance budgets slashed and so on. Those who live in little villages who are campaigning for bypasses will be stuffed; you won’t be getting one under a LibDem government. Furthermore their idea that they can make tax fairer seems to me to be rather naive. They think they can close loopholes to prevent the rich avoiding paying tax – yeah, right! Given their clear lack of experience of government, I can see that ending up in a right mess, similar to how the Labour government’s handling of IR35 has been.

In case you’re not aware, around 10 years ago the Labour government decided that they would review how contractors worked. The gist of it was that they decided that people who were the sole employee of their own company, working under contract for a client (perhaps through an agency), on the client’s premises and somewhat under the client’s guidance should be treated as an employee for tax purposes. The last bit is important. In most cases the client/agent would be invoiced by the worker’s company, and the payment would be made to the worker’s company. The worker would often be paid a nominal salary, but would be a shareholder in his/her company and the rest of the company’s income would be issued as dividends. So what is the advantage of that? Well essentially it reduces the amount of National Insurance the worker pays. The change meant that essentially all, give or take a little bit, of the company’s income was treated as salary. The irony is though that, prior to that the person’s company would be paying Corporation Tax and Employer’s National Insurance contributions as well as the (admittedly minimal) Employee’s National Insurance contributions. Not only that, unlike a real employee, the worker would miss out on any benefits offered by their client (i.e. they party they were being treated as an employee of for tax purposes) such as paid sick leave, paid holidays and so on. Even worse, when things start to go pear shaped for the client, it tends to be the contractors who get the boot first. So essentially you were treated as an employee but had none of the benefits. Intriguingly there were a number of small companies whose founders had started off in this way and could only have grown their company because of the way things worked prior to this being brought in. Shouldn’t a government be trying to help small businesses to grow rather than hindering them? Right at the start it was unclear what conditions had to be met for a contract to come under the IR35 rules; as far as I know, ten years on the situation is no clearer! Surely a fair tax system should be clear – I can’t see anything the LibDems propose providing any more clarlity than the IR35 legislation.

Intriguingly, despite their claims that they’re being more honest than everone else, LibDem still appear to be trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Take their position on airfare taxes…

Ensuring pollution is properly taxed by replacing the per-passenger Air Passenger Duty with a per-plane duty (PPD), ensuring that air freight is taxed for the fi rst time. We will also introduce an additional, higher rate of PPD on domestic flights if realistic alternative and less polluting travel is available.

So what they’re saying is that you’ll no longer have to buy flight tickets for, let’s say, £0.04 and pay £25 tax on it. Wahey – isn’t that great? Well, no. The money for the “per-plane duty (PPD)” has to come from somewhere, the airlines aren’t going to just pay for it out of their own pocket, so the tax will go on to the airfare. Of course that may make the cost of air travel clearer (as it is a bit of a pain at the moment seeing you’ve got cheap fares then having to work out the actual cost and seeing it’s not so cheap). But then won’t it make sense to tax air freight? Well no. Freight basically means “goods”. Many day to day provisions are carried by air so where does the money come from to pay for those taxes? Well it will come from the freight lines, who will add it to the cost of carriage to their customer who will in turn add it to the cost of the goods at the point of sale, i.e. you will pay more in the shop for goods carried by air than you do now.

One thing to consider though As I understand it, at the moment air travel isn’t subject to VAT however if that were to change would you prefer to pay VAT on the price of the ticket, or the price of the ticket including PPD. Certainly, from precedent with VAT on petrol, if VAT was introduced on air fares, you’d most likely pay VAT on top of the duty rather than before it.

Finally this seems to be based on the premise that air travel contributes to global warming; interesting then that the figures showed an increase in global temperature during the period immediately after 11th September 2001, when there were no flights for days – shouldn’t it have got cooler!

Still, it really doesn’t matter; LibDem are not going to win the election, the real issue is whether voting for them results in a hung parliament, which isn’t good for anyone.

So to sum it up, the major party I see as having the least wrong with them is Conservative. There are still a number of Conservative MPs who fought in Thatcher and Major’s cabinet so they have some experience to fall back on. Many people say “but look at what the tories did the last time”. What they seem to forget is the last time the tories were in power they were cleaning up the crap from the way Labour left it in 1979! The other thing I remember about the tories is that the last time they were in power (i.e. when Major won the election) there majority was so low that they really couldn’t get any stupid bills passed. That, to me, is an ideal situation and the closest thing to democracy that we’re ever likely to get in this country. It has to be Conservative though; I can’t face another term under those halfwits in the Labour party!

There you have it – I can’t wait to see what the outcome is!

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