Friday, February 04, 2011

Caroline Lucas' U-turn on taxes

Channel hopping between Question Time and 10 O'clock Live, I caught the following exchange...

David Mitchell: The key is that ultimately, surely to save the environment things have to be made more expensive - the things that are destroying the planet have to be made as expensive monetarily as they are to the environment and that's going to involve a lot of sacrifice, don't you have to be honest about that?

Caroline Lucas: Well I will be honest about that, what I think it needs is a shift in taxation, not an overall increase in the burden of taxation, but if we taxed carbon instead of taxing income so much for example that would be a very good thing, we'd get more people into jobs, we'd also tackle the environmental crisis, so it's not rocket science...

This is a far cry from the Greens' general election manifesto that called for massive tax increases to close the deficit.

Whatever happened to "left wing plus"? Don't get me wrong here, I agree with the policy - but it is not a left wing one - the left much prefers taxing income to taxing consumption. I also agree with the question - if the Greens can't be honest about the sacrifices they expect, it is a bit rich to accuse other parties of being all talk and no trousers.

But more significantly, whatever happened to the Green Party being the last bastion of big tax and spend politics, appealing to the disaffected left? Is it really quite so shallow as to switch its whole politics from the hard left to the centre now it thinks there might be more mileage in attracting disaffected Lib Dems?

And has this monumental step really happened in an interview on a comedy news and politics show? Does the rest of the Green Party know anything about this? What do they think?

I am feeling a little stunned here.


Liberal Polemic said...

Caroline Lucus is a politician, and like all politicians she will steer towards the median voter and do whatever is necessary to save her seat and promote her party - even if it means abandoning its founding principles.

Of course, even a Green must realise that there is only so much tax that an economy can shoulder, and the UK economy has just about hit the maximum. Increasing tax rates is easy; increasing tax take is a lot harder at this point.

It's a shame that she wasn't obliged to say "I have decided to adopt the Lib Dem's taxation policy instead of the Green one as it was far better thought out than ours."

Oranjepan said...

Perhaps it's because she can get away with it as a single member, whereas even a second would create a problem of accountability - which may be why she worked to abandoned dual leadership and is gradually transforming the Green party into a bit of personality cult.

But then Caroline Lucas is more about Caroline Lucas than anything else - she's not exactly doing much to earn her MEP salary right now.

Anonymous said...

She doesn't receive an MEP salary. She's no longer an MEP.

Anonymous said...

The Green Party has always subscribed to an alternative economics where prosperity rather than growth is the key feature. Taxing Carbon emissions rather than people's monetary income is totally in line with this. It acknowledges that we may now have less money than in previous decades but we can move toward a more energy efficient and, ergo, prosperous economy by taxing emissions.

As for the Comment that Caroline Lucas is more about Caroline Lucas than anything else. It would be difficult for someone in her position to avoid being about herself in the eyes of some, but of all the politicians in the public eye at the moment, Lucas is the one most in touch with the needs of not only Britain but the whole world, and I would say certainly the least self-centred!

Joe Otten said...

Anon, I'm not disputing the merits of taxing carbon emissions rather than income. But last time I checked, the Green Party wasn't backing income tax cuts.

A simple clarification, or a retraction, would be in order.

matteotti said...

Polemics from the politically illiterate and ignorant. Sigh LOOK: There is no U Turn here: No abandonment of principles. (Have any who smugly say there IS a U Turn actually read the Party's Philosophical Basis? Its is about seeking to create a sustainable society, and that is preserving the Earths finite resources resources so there may be some for future Generations to use.)

As you previously were a Green Party member, Joe, you wouldnt be stunned unless you werent familiar with Green economic policy emphasis then AND since:
The Green Party's economic policy, as signposted in the Party's Philosophical Basis and compendium 'Policies for a Sustainable Society'
The principles were and still are to switch more of the burden of taxation from taxing income to taxing resource-use. Actually the Green Party (previously called Ecology Party) embraced this principle before the Lib Dems did! ~Before the Liberals merged with the SDP, for that matter
You Lib Dems did not campaign on this taxation policy at the election either (edited out of your election manifesto) but it is claimed the policy is yours, although they dont seem to impliment it in the slightest now they are in Govt!
This taxation change would be accompanied by seeking to minimise what humanity takes from the Earth through switching to Local Production For Local Needs; local economic self reliance. Costs (not just financial) would thereby be reduced, as then, for example, each punnet of fruit on the shop shelf would not have required half a pint of diesel fuel to put it there after harvesting. This would have an effect on reducing the Carbon footprint, & thereby kerbing global warming. It IS intellectually coherent.

As the honourable lady says;
if we taxed carbon instead of taxing income so much for example that would be a very good thing, we'd get more people into jobs, we'd also tackle the environmental crisis, so it's not rocket science.

Joe Otten said...

I'm more familiar with it than you suggest matteotti, although all this "left wing plus" and massive tax increases is within the last decade or so. And not an expression of the GP Philosophical basis, but an opportunistic (for some) positioning on the left in response to New Labour.

So the simple clarification I am asking for, which you didn't manage to give in your long comment, remains. Is the policy of massive tax rises still in place or has it been abandoned?

Anonymous said...

LibDem's certainly did campaign for a 'Green Tax Switch' at the GE.

I wouldn't say the statement necessarily is a U-Turn by Caroline Lucas herself, since she's always flapped in the prevailing wind according what she thinks her audience wants to hear.

I would say therefore that it represents the rather more worrying trend of her increasing dominance within the Green Party which she is using to unilaterally dictate policy according to what is politically expedient at that moment.

Several Green Party members I know are already questioning how much they can trust her.