18/09/2011 The Politics Show South East


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The price of power. How can the Lib Dems woo back voters in the South


East and reestablish their identity while they are in Government?


And the price of a high salary. The Tories want to abolish the 50 pence


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2129 seconds


tax rate. Their Coalition partners Welcome to the Politics Show in the


South East. In the next 20 minutes. Paying the price of power, how can


the Lib-Dems bring back voters in the South East and re-establish


their identity while they are in government. The Tories want to


abolish the top rate of cash -- tax, their partners are fighting for it


to stay. Could two of our region's MPs lose their jobs if the proposed


boundary shake-up goes ahead? The Lib-Dem leadership has a task at


conference. It needs to persuade the party ministers are influencing


government policy and up holding party principles. The Lib Dems lost


half their council seats in the South East in the May elections. We


have this report. In the local elections, the Lib


Dems did badly, especially in the South East, where they lost half


their seats. After the election, they made resolutions for their


revival. Are they are on track? Nick Clegg had set out his plans.


There are lessons to be learned. The lesson I have learned,


listening to people, is people want a louder Liberal Democrat voice in


government. They want a louder Liberal Democrat voice and that is


what we will deliver. Why his -- while his words were intended to


appease the grass roots, it did not address the problem of MPs like


Norman Baker. He made interesting comments about the consequences of


increased rail fares. That is an issue for his constituents. It is a


classic example of how the Coalition traps one. Nick leg


cannot be seen to be opposing the Coalition agreement. The deputy


prime minister said when the Lib- Dems have success in the Coalition,


it needs to be communicated. Where we have done things, protecting


people on low pay, taking 900,000 people on low pay out of paying


income tax, we need to say loudly. To the Lib-Dems grass roots think


this has happened? Perhaps not as much as possible. It is always


difficult to get coverage. What people like most of all our


disagreements. We have never had the resources of the other main


parties to have an effective media unit that deals with stories.


local Lib Dems said it should be easy to communicate and message


that affects so many South East workers. There are many people in


the region on low wages. The Lib Dems brought the idea of lifting


the income tax threshold and taking thousands out of paying income tax.


That is brilliant. Shout from the rooftops. I do not get the


impression that people have this knowledge. The party has to get the


message out that the situation and the government would be worse if it


were not for the involvement of the Lib-Dems. Otherwise the damage will


be severe. Another commitment... People want to see us retain an


identity. We have to prove we have not. That is what will happen.


in Lewes this week, people were not clear about the Lib Dem identity.


Can we ask what you think the Liberal Democrats stand for? I do


not really know. Does anybody? not sure. I am not sure many people


are. Pretty spineless. Just to get a bit of fame and they are paying


the price. Now they are in the Coalition, it is difficult to know


where you stand. I would not vote for them any more. It's scenes they


have not achieved what they hoped. It is not surprising, given that


they are in Coalition. Is it possible for them to have a decent


influence while retaining their identity and appealing to


grassroots supporters? Is it one or the other? In the last 30 years


they have been good at local level and campaigning on local issues.


Often they did that by having distinctive local Policies. There


is nothing fundamentally wrong with that. It becomes impossible when


you are in a Coalition agreement. Local activists are disillusioned.


They are losing a distinct ability to do what they have done best,


which is to campaign on local issues. The Liberal Democrat's


continued to explore new territory. They are in government and want to


do well. There are two types of success. To be successful in terms


of power they need to be closer to the Conservatives in Coalition. To


be successful at grassroots level, they need to separate themselves


and establish their own identity. This week's conference will look at


what success they prefer. We can give a louder voice to the


transport minister and Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes. Norman Baker,


we heard you described as intelligent, articulate and brave.


Is it how you see yourself? I am happy to be in government. Most of


our manifesto is being enacted in the Coalition. Is it a one-way


street? It is not. There are compromises that are necessary from


both. That is the case went to parties come together. If you are


inside government, you cannot be as frank as you would like to be. But


you have more access to ministers and can get more done for your


constituents. I am happy. What are your successes? You in the


Department of Transport? We have the biggest railway investment


programme since the Victorian era. We have 560 million in a fund that


I am administering for a local sustainable transport fund. That


will be on cycling, walking, local transport, and we have counter to


the third runway at Heathrow. We are proceeding with high-speed rail.


What about rail fares? Your boss said the train service is a rich


man's toy. I find it regrettable that rail fares are going up. As


soon as the public finances allowed, we should try to bring them down.


What we have done is look at the railway structure. It is not


efficient. There is money to be secured. When we do that, the money


should be handed back to passengers. One think you said you are opposed


to is the rise to the motorway speed limit, which your boss wants.


We stop at? We have a different emphasis on this. The Secretary of


State is clear there needs to be consequences taken into account.


Were you stop it? I will wait to see what the evaluation says. I am


keen that we do not make road safety worse and in -- increase


carbon. This is the complaint, that you could be doing more.


Constituents are feeling frustrated by what you have not achieved.


is not fair. It is not as easy in government to be as vocal as in


opposition. But much of the manifesto is being delivered.


People are being taken out of taxation, a big Liberal Democrat


promise. We have 900 million allocated in the Treasury to tackle


tax avoidance. No number of the people in your constituency, -- and


none of the people are getting that message. There is a problem. I do


not think they have forgotten the message. Had we had 149 more votes


at the local elections we would have kept our council seats. I have


been around the circuit for over 20 years in politics. I have lost


count of the interviews I have done when I am asked if the Liberal


Democrats are finished. Whether it is Charles Kennedy leaving,


whatever the reason, we never finished. We always bounced back.


It is something people vote for. You have the conference ahead. What


will you do to attract voters in Birmingham? We have a good agenda.


What I am proud of by a -- of my party is that we make decisions and


we have to take the instructions back can deal with them. Last year,


the NHS, we took instructions back and the NHS Bill has been altered


to take account of those views. Shirley Williams would like you to


go further. Of course. We have negotiated a good outcome that will


enable us to proceed with cost- saving initiatives. We will give


more power to local GPs. Is everybody happy with everything in


the equation? Probably not. But there will be opportunities when


people can put their views in House of Lords. You also had the


announcement that your seat could be abolished. We've fight that? It


is an the days. -- it is early days. I have not had a chance to discuss


it with my constituency party. We should take things slowly and


calmly and not jump to conclusions. It will be a problem at Uckfield,


which is a Tory stronghold. bottom end... Uckfield is a county


council seat for the Liberal Democrats. You're coming back to


saying we are on our way out. not say that! I wish I had �10 for


every time I hear that. We cannot give you that out of the licence


fee! We will return to Norman Baker. One issue testing the Coalition is


the 50p tax rate, which affects a small proportion of the population


and in over �150,000. Almost a quarter of the 67,000 people leap -


- it in the South East. This week, a study said that the tax rate


costs the government, rather than raising money. This has led to


calls for the abolition of the tax rate. The Liberal Democrats want to


keep it. Chris Huhne said getting rid of the tax will help the


Conservatives' friends in the city. Mr Johnson. It would look unfair


for the poorer people if they are hit by your austerity programme and


then this tax rate is abolished. have helped out people on lower


incomes, ensuring that we are working towards a new rate band of


�10,000 for the lowest earners. I do not subscribe to the view that


we should have rates of taxation that are necessary. If we are not


getting revenue from this tax rate, it should not be there. It might


not be bringing in money. But it is symbolic. If George Osborne got rid


of it, it will look like he is helping his friends in the city.


the tax band does not bring in any revenue, we should be getting rid


of it. We do not make the poor richer by making the rich poorer.


It is not a -- an incentive for people to stay in the country.


Successful people will not be inclined to come to this country if


we had tax rates that are higher. we will cross to Norman Baker. If


it does not make any money, this rate is surely silly? Were eight do


not know if it loses money. This comes from a particular think tank.


The estimate I sought was that it raises 7.7 billion. We should see


what the consequences of this are. What I hope we agree with in the


Coalition is that we want a fair system that helps those at the


bottom end. We want a system that means those who can afford to pay


more should pay more. Does it have to be this form of tax? Would you


be happy with another sort of tax increase? The principle is a


progressive tax. Income tax is a well understood process. It is more


difficult to avoid than other taxes. I am inclined towards income tax. I


am open-minded. People on very high incomes, they ought to pay their


fair share, particularly at a time of economic difficulties. If this


rate is not working, we should look at something else that is more


difficult to avoid, such as the mansion tax, so we can catch the


Russians over here with vast amounts of money and not paying any


tax. The wealth gap is increasing. We have to do something about that,


surely? If the 50p tax rate is not bring in anything in to the


Treasury, we should get rid of it because it is pointless. How else


would you narrow the gap? I would carry on with what we are


endeavouring to do. Helping those on the lowest of incomes to come


out of taxation. That is the Coalition's priority. That is what


we will do before any other tax cuts. It does not make sense to put


in a rate band that does not bring in revenue. We should find out the


situation as to whether it is bringing money in. The Chancellor


said he did not want to change his spending plans because of the


worsening situation in Europe. Chancellor wants to see what income


comes in from this rate. If it is insufficient, I hope we get rid of


it. It sounds as if you are open to that, Norman Baker, if it does not


bring in enough money? This is from a think tank. They are independent.


They tend to come from the right or left. This one is from the right.


If it is proven it loses money, we would be daft to keep it. I would


be surprised. Is this something your party has to do to make a


difference? We do not want a gesture politics. What we agree on


is that the most important thing is to get the people at the bottom and


out of taxation. And to make sure we protect those who are vulnerable


and in work trying to make a living. The principle of progressive


taxation is important. Those who earn the most should pay the most.


Thank you both. As we heard, Norman Baker is one MP


feeling uncomfortable in his seat after the Boundary Commission


announced plans to change the political landscape. Another could


be the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent. The commission is


recommending fewer constituencies, which would lead to fewer MPs. How


could this changed the map in the South East? As you said, the


highest-profile casualty, two ministers actress, but Hugh


Robertson, the Olympics minister, his seat would go. That is because


the electorate would be divided between Canterbury and another. I


spoke to him and he said he is disappointed because it is the


place where he was born and he brought his family up there. He


said on a political level, he agrees with the need to reduce the


number of seats to 600 from 650. Norman Baker would not be drawn,


but half of his constituency will be going into Brighton. He is


looking for vulnerable because of that. If you look at the way they


want to draw it, they propose that because the constituencies are


small, Lewes and the neighbouring constituency, would come together


as Lewes and Brighton East. Lewes is held by a Conservative. If they


take away part of it, it might be more difficult for a Liberal


Democrat MP to hang on to it. Particularly somebody who has voted


for decisions such as tuition fees. These changes will not definitely


happen. What impact could it have on politics? We will not know the


actual impact after the 2013 election. Neighbours say it will be


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