Dementia Tax…

The 2017 Conservative manifesto includes a commitment to funding social care through individual payments, capped so that nobody is left with less than £100,000.

This policy, widely condemned as a “Dementia tax” is deeply unfair. It would in effect mean that someone with a long term illness would face a tax rate of 100% on assets (including property) over £100,000. Inheritance tax currently stands at 40% on assets above a variable threshold, between £325,000 and £850,000.

In other words, Conservative tax policy will penalise anyone with a long-term, condition.

This, of course, has sparked backlash, as well it should. It is therfore unsurprising that today saw a Conservative u-turn. Theresa May announced that alongside this level of assets below which a person will not have to pay for care, there will be an absolute cap on the contributions any person will be required to make to pay for their social care.

I’ve blogged about u-turns in the past, and continue to believe they can be a public good. I’m glad Theresa May’s Conservatives have realised that their proposals for funding social care were deeply unfair. I’m glad they have announced this policy change, capping the amount anyone will be required to pay (though they have not specified what that cap will be). Im glad they are willing to change their position when flaws are highlighted (if we are going to have another Tory government, I’d rather it were one which changes its mind when presented with new evidence),

But this policy change does not go far enough. A system which makes an individual pay for their own care, regardless of how it is capped, is inherently unfair. Rather than sharing the burden of unforcosts and uncontrollable medical costs fairly across society, it penalises people for being ill. Let me repeat that. The Conservative policy forces ill people to pay for their care. This is entirely antithetical to the principles of the NHS. It is fundamentally unfair that two otherwise identical people will pay vastly different sums due to an accident of health.

A fair system would see everyone contributing to the country’s social care needs, in proportion to their ability to pay (it’s unpopular, but I increasingly see a larger role for inheritance tax in meeting care needs). This system does not do that. It makes some people pay through the nose, while others get away with paying nothing. This is not a way to build a more cohesive society. It may be that we need to use people’s housing wealth to cover care costs, but if that is the case, it should come out of everyone’s houses.

Don’t let the Conservatives fool you. They may have tweaked their policy, but in doing so they have only made it a bit less bad!

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Brick By Brick

Brick By Brick

In March I joined the Liberal Democrats. I was optimistic about the path the party was taking, with increased membership, and a position on Brexit which not only set us apart from Labour and the Conservatives, but also spoke to wider liberal values. I felt that, with hard work and a good media operation we could make some real progress. We could focus on showing the country the value of truly Liberal philosophy in a changing world; a world where the biggest threats do not respect borders, where our enemies are fuelled by intolerance, where the old party allegiances are increasingly meaningless.

Then Theresa May called an election.

Initially I was optimistic. The party membership reached a historic high. I thought our message could cut through.

It is clear now, that I was wrong. We haven’t seen a poll surge, fuelled by people who hold liberal values close to their heart. The local election results were at best mediocre. The two main party leaders declined to take part in leader’s debates, meaning that our only hope would be to be the best of the ‘minor’ parties. And, because of the chocolate fireguard of an electoral system which is First Past the Post, Theresa May has been able to shape the election as a choice between herself and Jeremy Corbyn.

Increasingly, I think this election could not have come at a worse time for us. Had it followed straight on the back of the referendum, we could have made far more of opposing Brexit, which now feels, to most people, a foregone conclusion. Conversely, had the election been a few years later (following the fixed term parliament act), we would have had the benefit of a more substantial break from the coalition, which still undermines potential centre-left support, alongside evidence of just how bad Brexit will actually be.

So what now?

We plug away. We build on our increasingly professional media operation, and make the most of any airtime we can get. We throw everything at key seats, and we hope that, come June the 9th, we are not worse off. I’ll be pleased if we make it in to the 20s at this point – if we lose seats we are in real trouble. But regardless, I increasingly see this election as a battle for survival, because we simply don’t have the bandwidth to do more. We are short on time, we are squeezed out of the competition by Labour and the Tories.

Once we are through the next few weeks, the real work will begin.

For too long, our cultural discourse has been high-jacked by illiberal voices, so that we have almost lost sight of what we are missing. The Liberal Democrats must step up and show the word that we can achieve more if we value differences of experience and culture, rather than seeking to impose conformity. That we people should be supported to pursue their own vision of a good life, through excellent education, through real electoral choice, through the freedom to love without consequence. That we can still work with people of different views. That any society relies on the contributions of all its parts, and cannot afford to demonise those who are rich, poor or not from round here. That our greatest challenges do not respect national boundaries.

The world needs Liberalism. Its our job to help it realise this.