New Jez Honours

By DAVID WOODING

THERE have shocks and surprises galore in the corridors of power during 2015.

The Tories pipped Labour at the election winning post, the Lib Dems collapsed, Scottish nationalism triumphed and a little-known backbencher called Jeremy Corbyn became one of the most talked about politicians in the country.

Like the rest of them, he’s made us chuckle with a host of cock-ups and U-turns.

So let’s chill out and take a light-hearted look at the past year in Parliament with my New Jez Honours.1425551_10153174642391945_7409042168289219243_n

PANTO POLITICS PRIZE: Jeremy Corbyn for his starring role as Aladdin’s pal Wishy-Washy. Will he wear a red poppy on Remembrance Day? Oh, no, he won’t – oh, yes he will! Will he force Labour MPs to vote against air strikes on terrorists in Syria? Oh, yes, he will – oh, no, he won’t! Will he kneel before the Queen when he joins the Privy Council? Oh, no, he won’t – oh, yes, he will!

PANTO VILLAIN: George Osborne plays Baron Hardup by axing tax credits for three million low-paid families. Then the Chancellor pulled a fast one on Labour by giving claimants a last-minute reprieve.

HIS LEWDSHIP: Disgraced Lord Sewel took politics back into the sewer after being caught on film snorting cocaine with a pair of £200-a-night hookers at his flat. The deputy speaker was forced to quit his seat after being exposed by The Sun on Sunday – but will keep his title.

SNOUTS IN THE TROUGH AWARD: Lords Speaker Baroness D’Souza clocked up a £230 bill keeping a chauffeur-driven car waiting four hours while she watched an opera a mile from Parliament. We’d like to see her Rigoletto that one.

TOFF IN THE SNOUTS AWARD: David Cameron for hogging the headlines after a book claimed he put his “private part” into a dead pig’s mouth as part of an outrageous student initiation ceremony. The PM got his own back, branding author Lord Ashcroft “a little p****”.

26560518303_8b33b2e613_oORDER OF THE GREEDY PIG: A special prize goes to aptly-named Tory Douglas Hogg who re-boarded the Westminster gravy train five years after being thrown off. He was forced to quit as an MP after claiming £2,200 expenses to clean his moat – but has been given a seat in the Lords.

LAZARUS PRIZE FOR POLITICAL COMEBACK: Anti-war campaigner Ken Livingstone has a new lease of life co-chairing Labour’s defence review. Now he says he’d accept a seat in the Lords – which he wants to abolish – if Mr Corbyn offers him one.

SHORTEST RESIGNATION: Nigel Farage keeps his promise to quit as Ukip leader if he fails to be elected as an MP – only to re-instate himself three days later, claiming the party’s ruling board refused to accept his resignation.

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PICTURE BY GARY STONE. 15/5/2015. DAVE WOODING INTERVIEWS UKIP LEADER NIGEL FARAGE. NIGEL ENJOYS A DRINK A ND A LAUGH WITH THE SUN’S DAVE WOODING IN THE GUINEA PUB.

REBEL OF THE YEAR: Ukip’s only MP Douglas Carswell made history by staging a one-man backbench rebellion against party leader Nigel Farage. Let’s hope there isn’t a split. He’d find that even more painful.

GOLDEN BLADDER AWARD: Speaker John Bercow, who sat through an 11-hour Commons debate on Syria without a loo break. But then he always was good at stopping government leaks.

GOLDEN BALLS-UP AWARD: Former shadow chancellor Ed Balls urged everyone get a receipt when paying a handyman cash for odd jobs. Then his window cleaner revealed he had never asked for one in 17 years.

GRAVEST MISTAKE: Ed Miliband spent £15,000 on an 8ft “gravestone” carved with six key pledges days before the general election. The Ed Stone made him a laughing stock – and buried his hopes of becoming PM.

KICK A MAN WHEN HE’S DOWN PRIZE: Six-year-old Daniel Miliband for bluntly telling his defeated dad: “You used to be famous.”

BIG BENN CLANGER OF THE YEAR: SNP MP George Kerevan for saying Tony Benn would be “turning in his grave” at his son Hilary’s passionate speech in favour of air strikes in Syria. His remarks enraged the family of the late Leftie icon – who was actually cremated.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS, WAR IS OVER, DIPLOMA:  Diane Abbott, who spent a stormy meeting of Labour MPs, in which her ex-lover Jeremy Corbyn faced a barrage of criticism over his soft stance on terrorism, calmly signing her Christmas cards.

VANITY FAIR AWARD FOR SELFIE-EXPOSURE: SNP foreign affairs spokesman Alex Salmond for missing a Commons debate on whether to launch air strikes on Syria so he could unveil a portrait of himself in Edinburgh. A Labour wag summed it up perfectly: “If Alex Salmond was chocolate, he’d eat himself.”

BOOKER PRIZE FOR BEING WELL RED: Labour’s John McDonnell stunned MP by quoting Chinese communist mass murderer Chairman Mao in the Commons. He pulled out a copy of the despot’s little red book, read a section and threw it to George Osborne. The Chancellor kept it. Expect to see it thrown back at McDonnell in 2016 – or auctioned to raise Tory funds.

GAFFE OF THE YEAR: David Cameron for mixing up the claret and blue of West Ham United with that of Aston Villa – the team he tells us he supports.

TORY OF THE YEAR: Russell Brand for helping David Cameron win the election by telling his army of young fans not to vote – then urging them to back Labour when it was too late to register.

GILLETTE AWARD FOR THE SHARPEST POLITICAL PUTDOWN: Union boss Sir Paul Kenny on George Osborne’s handling of the economy: “He’s claimed more recoveries in the past five years than the RAC.”

BARBIE MEDAL FOR FEMINISM: Harriet Harman for launching a national wide tour to attract more women voters – in a PINK battlebus. A Westminster wag quipped: “I wonder what she thinks of the make-up of the Cabinet? She’d probably say there’s not enough pink lipstick.”

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LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN MEDAL FOR SPORT: London Mayor Boris Johnson’s over-exuberance in a game of touch rugby went wrong when he flattened a poor ten-year-old boy. If you think that’s bad, just wait until the Tory leadership race starts.
PLAIN SPEAKING AWARD: Labour’s Chris Bryant complained there were too many posh people in the arts. Singer James Blunt tweeted: “You classic gimp…it is your populist, envy-based, vote-hunting ideas which make our country c**p, far more than me and my s*** songs and plummy accent.”

ROCKY BELT FOR PARLIAMENTARY PUNCH-UPS: Rookie Labour MP Jessica Phillips for telling Diane Abbott to “f*** off” after she pulled her up for criticising their leader. She revealed: “People said to me they had always wanted to say that to her, and I don’t know why they don’t as the opportunity presents itself every other minute.” Asked how Ms Abbott responded, she replied: “She f***ed off.”

GREENHOUSE GAS GONG:  Leftie singer Charlotte Church produced more hot air than global warming itself by blaming the war in Syria on…climate change.

TWITS OF THE YEAR: Labour MP David Lammy for tweeting: “Good luck to students waiting for there GCSE results today. Rooting for you!” Wonder what grade he got in English? Labour’s Helen Goodman, forced to apologise after tweeting this about the Health Secretary’s Chinese missus: “If China is so great why did Jeremy Hunt’s wife come to England?” The BBC numpty who sent a tweet suggesting Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke was asleep during a Commons debate – when he was leaning close to a speaker because he is partially deaf.

MBE – Mugs of the British Empire: All the pollsters for totally misjudging the mood of the nation – right up to 10pm on election day. At least there’s now someone less trustworthy than our politicians.

Happy New Year everyone, which ever of this bunch you support!

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New Sneers Honours

By DAVID WOODING
IT’S been a year when the people of Britain have stuck a collective two fingers up to MPs.
Voters have used the ballot box to take their revenge on politicians of all varieties, whom many see as out of touch.
But some MPs and peers  haven’t learned a thing as they hurl insults, throw tantrums and sneer at ordinary people.
So in an irreverent, but light-hearted, look back at the past year in Parliament, here are my New Sneer’s Honours.
Sneer of the Realm: Labour’s Emily Thornberry who scoffed at a house with three England flags and a white van outside. She resigned as shadow attorney general hours after tweeting a picture of them hours before the Rochester by-election result.
Life sneerage: Fouled-mouthed Tory Andrew Mitchell fought a £3 million, two-year legal after denying he called cops “plebs” when they refused to let him ride his bike through the Downing Street main gates. A High Court judge sided with the cops and told the snobbish ex-Chief Whip: “On yer bike.”
Cabbie-net Minister of the Year: David Mellor berated a taxi driver who suggested a quicker route, calling him a “a smart-arsed little b*****d” and telling him: “Shut up you sweaty little git.” The Tory ex-minister added: “I’ve been in the Cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s counsel.” He was forced to apologise after cabbies threatened to ban him. I’d like to see how long he waits next time he wants to hail a taxi.
Sneer of the Year: Tory MP Mark Garnier for telling his party not to bother with “dog-end voters” who live in “outlying regions”. Suspect he’ll soon be at the dog-end of his political career.
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Emily Thornberry and the twitpic that cost her her job.

Yes, Yes, Yes Minister: Deputy PM’s wife Miriam Clegg wins the honesty award for saying “women have been faking it for years”. But has she told husband Nick?
Snooze-Night TV Award: David Cameron, who admitted he often dozes off on the sofa when he has a night in front of the telly with wife Sam. The PM said: “Half an hour of Silent witness and we’re both asleep.” At least Sam doesn’t have to fake it.
The “Three minutes is a long time in politics” Award: Tory chief whip Michael Gove was nominated by his gossipy wife Sarah Vine. When told that men burn 4.2 calories a minute during sex, she quipped: “Wow! That’s 12.6 calories a session.”
Big Benn Clanger of the Year: Diane Abbott for live tweeting from inside church at Tony Benn’s funeral. An angry admirer of the Labour legend (that’s Benn, not Abbott) raged: “Why not go the whole hog and do a selfie with the coffin?”
The Prat that got the Queen: The royal claws were out for David Cameron after he claimed Her Majesty “purred” with pleasure when he phoned her the No vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
OBE – ‘Orrible Butty Eater: Ed Miliband, who bit off more than he could chew when he tried to battle his way through a bacon sandwich. The sarnie won.
The Gillette Award for Sharpest Political Putdown: Louise Mensch after MP’s wife Karen Danczuk posted saucy cleavage selfies on Twitter: “Put them away, love. Frankly, I’d rather see Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich.”
Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Gold Medal for Selfie-Exposure: Charities Minister Brooks Newmark resigned after sending explicit photographs of himself to an undercover reporter. The nation was appalled at his bad taste. Surely, no self-respecting MP would be seen dead hanging out of paisley pyjamas.
Class Warrior of the Year: Singer Myleene Klass for ripping Ed Miliband to shreds on TV over his planned mansion tax. “You can’t just point at something and say let’s tax it,” she stormed. “You might as well tax this glass of water.”
Worst political U-turn: Ed Balls, who was investigated by cops after hitting a parked car while doing a seven-point turn in a narrow street then driving off. It’s not the first time the shadow chancellor has found himself in a tight spot.
The Jack Horner Award for Women’s Rights: Nigel Farage, who infuriated mums by telling them to breastfeed in the corner of cafes and restaurants where nobody could see them.
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Exposed: My story about Brooks Newmark.

Feminist of the Year: Sports Minister Helen Grant for her efforts to get more women involved in physical activity with these fine words of advice: “There are some wonderful sports you can do and look absolutely radiant and very feminine. Ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and even roller-skating.”
Overseas Aid Champion: Harriet Harman who wore a T-shirt with the slogan “This is what a feminist looks like”. Her selfless act helped to boost employment in Mauritius, where women were paid 62p an hour to work in a sweatshop making the garments.
House of Lards Pin-up of the Year: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who has been bombarded with demands for signed photographs from young girls in Russia. A puzzled aide admitted: “I’ve no idea why Eric is so big over there.”
Cockup of the Year: Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt for using the word “cock” six times and “lay” or “laid” five times during a Commons speech on poultry welfare. But she later let slip it was part of a smutty dare from Royal Navy officer friends.

Twerking twerp of the year: David Cameron for twerking at an Ibiza-style rave he hosted at Chequers to celebrate his wife Samantha’s 40th birthday – after branding top twerker Miley Cyrus a bad role model for kids.

Pint of Order: George “We’re all in this together” Osborne, for keeping a padlock on his office fridge to stop staff raiding his milk. Well, at least he’s miserly with the rest of us, too.
Rocky Belt for Parliamentary Punch-ups: SNP chief Alex Salmond and Labour’s Alistair Darling who squared up in live TV debates over Scots independence. Two Scottish men shouting at each other and they didn’t have the decency to do it in a Glasgow pub.
Resignation of the Year: Home Office minister Norman Baker quits, saying that working there was like “walking through mud”. Think how your boss, Theresa May copes, Norman. She does it wearing kitten heels.

 

New Jeers Honours

By DAVID WOODING

THERE has been plenty of gloom in the corridors of power during 2013.

It’s been a year of squeezes and freezes as politicians tell us all to tighten our belts.

But through all the austerity, they still managed to make us laugh – if only at their own tantrums, cock-ups.

So let’s loosen those belts a notch or two as Sun on Sunday Political Editor David Wooding honours those MPs in his NewJeers Political Awards.

Prat of the Year

MEP Godfrey Bloom for a string of outbursts too brazen even for the “fruitcakes and loonies” of UKIP. He dubbed African countries “bongo bong land”, branding women who don’t clean behind the fridge “sluts”. UKIP boss Nigel Farage stripped him of the party whip – probably using even more fruity language in the process.

Gold medal for selfie-exposure

David Cameron was caught snoozing barefoot on a bed in the background of a picture, posted on Instagram, of his sister-in-law getting ready for her wedding. Clearly, the red ministerial box beside him was full of dreary reading.

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The Gillette Award for sharpest put-down

The striker whose one-liner floored Tory heavyweight Eric Pickles after he scoffed at the small number of union activists on a Whitehall picket line.The roly poly Cabinet bruiser laughed: “I’ve walked past longer chip shop queues.” Quick as a flash, the un-named striker retorted: “But Eric, you’ve NEVER walked past a chip shop queue in your life.”

Shafter BAFTA

London Mayor Boris Johnson with this put down for Labour leader Ed Miliband: “Only a socialist could consider family ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother.”

Gaffe of the year 1

David Cameron for declaring he was on “team Nigella” and almost halting the trial of the TV chef’s former servants. The judge told the jury to ignore what he said. Labour would, no doubt, agree.

Gaffe of the year 2

The PM again for being unable to quote the price of a loaf – then admitting he baked his own using a posh, trendy bread-maker and organic flour.

A League of Their Own medal for sport

Sports minister Helen Grant who failed to get a single question right in a TV sports quiz.  She couldn’t name the Wimbledon women’s champ (Marion Bartoli), the FA cup holders (Wigan Athletic) or the England rugby captain (Chris Robshaw). Back in training for you, Ms Grant.

Twit of the Year

Labour MP Jack Dromey favourited gay porn websites on Twitter. The dad-of-three accidentally clicked on posts about well-endowed gay black men while researching a holiday. His wife, equalities zealot Harriet Harman, will clearly be pleased with his efforts to achieve diversity.

Jingle Balls Medal

Ed Balls, under pressure over his red-faced blustering performance at the autumn statement, mis-timed his grade three piano exam for the same day and had to postpone it. But he did better in his first public recital when he played a piece for children with only a few bum notes.

Pants on Fire Diploma

This is always a tough one in politics, with so many liars to choose from. But Chris Huhne wins this year’s award on points…the three he had put on his wife’s driving licence. The former Energy Secretary was jailed for eight months for perverting justice, but freed after serving 62 days, describing it as a “humbling and sobering experience”. True to form, it wasn’t long before he shamelessly took to the airwaves pontificating on the behaviour of others. Huhne wasn’t the only politician to run into trouble behind the wheel, though…

Strop Gear Award for Motoring

Commons Speaker John Bercow was called an “arrogant toff” and a “little weasel” in a five-minute dressing down by a mum who claimed he pranged her car while parking.

The Red “Ed” Light Award for Road discipline

Ed Balls, famed for blowing his top during Commons debates, didn’t see red for once – at a set of traffic lights. The shadow chancellor was fined after police cameras caught him jumping a red signal in his car. He confessed only weeks earlier he had also been caught speeding.

We’re all in this (parking space) together medal

George Osborne, after his car was caught on camera using a disabled parking bay in the same week the Chancellor cut disability benefits. And while we’re on motoring…

U-turn of the Year

David Cameron promised to be the greenest PM ever but with a screech of tyres he then promised to “cut the green crap” to bring down energy costs. Foot on the gas, Dave.

Margaret Thatcher memorial medal for tributes

Respect – but not respected – MP George Galloway produced the most churlish response to Lady Thatcher’s death with “tramp the dirt down”. He shares the award with ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell who provided the most cringe-making tribute: “A grocer’s daughter who taught me anything is possible…x.”

Nelson Mandela Award for Name-dropping

Nearly all top politicians were quick to boast how they once shook hands with Nelson Mandela…apart from Nick Clegg. But that didn’t stop him making a personal tribute on his death. The Deputy PM was greeted with howls of laughter as he told the Commons he never met the South African leader – but knew somebody who had.

Snouts in the Trough Award

Millionaire health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who blew £3,700 of taxpayers’ money learning his Chinese wife’s language, was front runner. But he was pipped at the post by most of the 650 other MPs who demanded an 11 per cent pay rise while the rest of us have our wages squeezed.

Fashionista of the Year

Labour’s Stella Creasy left kitten-heeled Home Secretary Theresa May in the shade by donning a chic blue PVC pencil skirt to question the PM in the Commons. Perhaps she’ll land a shadow Cabinet job – but her leader will make the vinyl decision.

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Rocky Belt for Parliamentary punch-ups

Hellraiser Eric Joyce spent a night in police cells after a brawl in a Commons bar – just a year after being charged with another Westminster fracas. But it was his decision to stand down as Falkirk MP which started the mother of all punch-ups as Ed Miliband squared up to union militants over who should be Labour’s new candidate.

Snooze-night award for political broadcasting

Newsnight editor Ian Katz wins hands down for taking to Twitter to brand Labour’s rising star Rachel Reeves “boring snoring” moments after she went on his BBC2 show. Ms Reeves replied simply: “Thanks”. But red-faced Katz, only two weeks in his job after leaving the Guardian, apologized in writing.

Plain speaking award

John Prescott, who on hearing his successor as deputy PM, Nick Clegg, has 15 advisers, quipped: “Even Jesus Christ capped it at 12.”

Political wisdom award

TV’s Jeremy Paxman for summing up the three choices facing voters at the next election – barely 500 days away – thus: “The people who gave us five years of austerity, the people who left us in this mess and  the people who pledged they would not raise student fees – the most blatant lie in recent political history.”

Oops!! Here’s what Lib Dems will be telling us over next few days

By DAVID WOODING

IT was meant as a private briefing note for Lib Dem MPs, so they knew the “line to take” in media interviews at the party conference in Glasgow.

Unfortunately, some hapless soul accidentally sent it to journalists instead.

It urges them to stress that the party is in “confident mood” and gives them nuggets and sound bytes to say before the cameras. So save yourself all that time watching tedious interviews on the telly and read the memo yourself, in just over a minute!

The advice misses one golden rule of politics…think and double check your email before pressing the send button.

THE MEMO IN FULL:

Five things to remember for every interview

  • This conference sees the party in a confident mood
  • We have a strong record of achievement in Government
  • Our priorities are jobs and easing the squeeze on household budgets
  • Labour cannot be trusted to build a stronger economy
  • The Conservatives on their own cannot build a fairer society

Fairer taxes

Under Nick Clegg’s leadership, the party have focused on the old liberal principle of favouring taxation on unearned wealth over hard work. This has culminated in the introduction in government of the key Lib Dem policy of cutting taxes by £700 for more than 20m people.

In these difficult times, it is important that everyone makes their contribution. It is right that we ask the broadest shoulder to bear their fair share: it is unrealistic to cut more money from welfare spending without increasing taxes on Britain’s richest.

We are looking at how the richest 10% of people, those earning over £50,000, could make a further contribution. The vast majority of people in the country would consider £50,000 a very large salary: these are not the middle income earners.

Spare room subsidy

From April 2013 the Government introduced a reduction in Housing Benefit for those who are receiving benefit for spare bedrooms in the social rented sector. It is not a tax.

1.            The policy is about making better use of social housing

2.            Many councils have people on waiting lists or living in overcrowded accommodation while others are funded for spare rooms they don’t need

3.            Why should someone who rents a council house get benefit for a spare room when you don’t if you have a private landlord?

4.            The policy will also contain the growing Housing Benefit bill for the taxpayer

5.            It will also encourage people to look for work

The Liberal Democrats in Government have secured an additional £35m fund to help claimants affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy who need extra support. This funding consists of £5m for rural areas with very isolated communities, £10m for all local authorities and £20m as a bidding fund for local authorities who can demonstrate that they have or are developing a robust policy to distribute discretionary housing payments and who have an additional need for funding.

Key Stats

·         Nearly one third of working-age social housing tenants on Housing Benefit are living in accommodation too big for their needs.

·         There are nearly 1m spare bedrooms, with an estimated cost to the taxpayer of up to half-a-billion pounds a year.

·         There are over 250,000 households living in overcrowded accommodation in the Social Rented Sector in England, who need more space.

·         Nearly 2m households (1.8m) in England on the social housing waiting list.

·         The cost of HB has increased by 50% in real terms over the last decade

In Scotland:

·         The housing benefit bill is £1.8bn

·         Based on the Scottish Housing Conditions Survey (SHCS), there are 59,000 households overcrowded in Scotland (3% of the total).  25,000 of these are in the social rented sector.

In the social rented sector in Scotland, there are:

·         148,000households occupying one bedroom properties

·         252,000households occupying two bedroom properties

·         Around 20,000new lettings of one bedroom properties in 2011

·         Over 5,000 new dwellings completed in 2011

·         158,000on waiting lists

Discretionary Housing Payments

To ensure we protect the vulnerable, we have trebled the Discretionary Housing Payment budget, which will enable local authorities to provide additional support, and respond on a case by case basis.

We have provided DHPs for three years, and it is under constant review. We have allocated £150m to local authorities for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) this year, including £25m for those in adapted accommodation affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy. We have also allocated an extra £5m for the most rural areas to help support remote and isolated communities. We have given councils an extra £10m to support the administration of the policy and there is a £20m fund available which councils can bid for if they need extra support. Some local authorities may claim they do not have enough DHPs. Similar claims were made in 2011/12, when councils ended up under spending their DHP budget by £11m.

Mansion Tax

The Liberal Democrats want everyone to pay their fair share, which is why we believe a Mansion Tax on the value of properties over £2m is fair.

To say this will affect houses worth more than £1.25m is nonsense invented by people who want to grab a headline. Our policy is for a threshold of £2m.

Personal allowance threshold

In government we have achieved our manifesto pledge to increase the income tax personal allowance to £10,000, taking 2.7m people out of income tax and giving a tax cut of £700 per annum to 24m others.

As the next step, we believe that there is a clear case for taking the equivalent of a full-time job on the minimum wage (equivalent to £12,300 per annum at current rates) out of income tax entirely. This is a bold move which would provide tax relief to many millions of families on low and middle incomes, and would help to maximise the rewards of employment for those on low incomes.

Making this change in one go would come at a significant cost to the Treasury, therefore we intend to phase this change in in stages over the course of the next parliament. It would be paid for through the other tax changes we propose to make, such as introduction of a Mansion Tax, Capital Gains Tax and pension tax reform, and our range of measures designed to tackle tax avoidance.

In this way we can provide tax cuts to those who most deserve them, encourage employment and boost the economy.

Capital Gains Tax

Taxing capital gains at a lower rate than income, as per the existing system, is of little or no benefit to the least well-off members of society, but allows some of the wealthiest individuals to pay significantly less tax than if the rates were aligned. This is fundamentally unfair.

In government, we acted quickly to make the regime more progressive by introducing a higher rate of 28% for gains made by higher and additional rate taxpayers, however ultimately we believe capital gains tax rates should be aligned with income tax rates.

Our tax reforms would achieve this, and would also reintroduce indexation allowances, in order to ensure that no-one is taxed on the portion of a ‘gain’ which has arisen simply due to inflation – and therefore ensure that no-one is penalised for holding assets over the long term.

The additional revenue that would be raised by these measures would go directly towards our aim of increasing the income tax personal allowance to the level equivalent to the minimum wage, which would benefit all individuals in full time employment – instead of the preferential capital gains tax rates which only benefit the wealthy.

Pensions tax relief

A £1m lifetime allowance would still be a generous regime – even at the existing low annuity rates, a £1m pension pot for a typical pensioner would provide a tax-free lump sum of £250,000 on retirement plus an inflation-linked pension of around £25,000 a year (or £45,000 per year fixed).

In reality the vast majority of employees will not reach a pension pot of £1m, and therefore will be unaffected by our proposal.

Cider

We want to alter the definition of cider for duty purposes to exclude the mass-produced, lower quality products from the beneficial low duty rates (compared to beer or wine) which apply to cider.

The current requirement to be classed as a cider is for only 35% of the product to be from apple juice. Increasing this requirement (to, say, 75%) would require manufacturers of high volume, low quality product to either significantly increase the quality of what they’re making, or pay duty at (considerably higher) wine rates. By contrast, those manufacturers already producing cider from actual apples would be unaffected.

Either way, the cost of low-end products would increase, the market would be levelled, and the harmful social impact of very cheap, high-strength ciders would be reduced.

Jewellery Tax

We have never proposed introducing a ’jewellery tax’ (or more accurately a ‘net asset tax’). As part of our extensive tax policy consultation process, we invited party members (and others) to comment on the idea of a French-style ‘net asset tax’, as this was one of the ideas that had been suggested by contributors to the consultation process up to that point. Ultimately the idea was rejected by the working group.

Stronger economy

Due to a banking crisis and Labour’s economic mismanagement, the coalition inherited an economy in very bad shape.

With sustained action and after taking many difficult decisions, the coalition has managed to reduce the structural deficit by a third since coming to power. Having created over a million private sector jobs, with increasing business confidence and the economy having grown for two successive quarters, there are signs that the economy is healing, although there is still a long way to go.

We have proposed taking radical action to tackle high youth unemployment by developing a comprehensive strategy to give 16-24 year olds access to skills, advice and opportunities necessary to find sustainable employment.

We would also like to pool council borrowing limits so councils who want to build more houses, but are at their limits, are able to do so. We will also examine whether Public Sector Net Debt (PSND) could be brought into line with definitions of other EU countries, enabling councils with a sustainable business model to borrow to invest in building more homes for rent.

Youth Contract

The Youth Contract aimed to create up to 160,000 jobs over three years for under-25s. By the end of July, just under 5,000 wage subsidies had been paid out. Nick Clegg acknowledged at the time that “the initial launch of the offer of this wage subsidy did get off to a slow start”. However he was quick to point that the Youth Contract may be more appealing for small and medium-sized businesses than large corporations.

The Deputy Prime Minister has also been keen to learn what could have been done to promote the Youth Contract better, such as utilising the Jobcentre Plus network more. The Confederation of British Industry are supportive of the Youth Contract and government remains determined to improve uptake.

Race equality

Liberal Democrats reject all prejudice and discrimination, as well as all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality. The party is fully committed to helping Britain’s ethnic minority communities achieve their full potential.

Racial inequality and racism continues to be a major problem faced by black and minority ethnic people from early years and throughout education and employment.

The motion reaffirms this commitment, and aims to tackle a number of inequalities in the education sector, while also aiming to improve race equality among private sector companies in receipt of public money.

Cohabitation rights

We believe the discrepancies between the rights afforded to cohabiting unmarried couples and those that are married need addressing, to give equal legal recognition to both relationships.

Currently if one partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything unless the couple owned property jointly. Equally in a cohabiting couple, currently neither partner has a legal duty to support the other financially, and voluntary agreements to pay maintenance to each other may be difficult to enforce, irrespective of the facts and circumstances of the relationship, such as sacrifices that may have been made by one party.

Veils in schools

Speaking to the Telegraph, Jeremy Browne said: “I am instinctively uneasy about restricting the freedom of individuals to observe the religion of their choice. That would apply to Christian minorities in the Middle East just as much as religious minorities here in Britain.

“But there is genuine debate about whether girls should feel a compulsion to wear a veil when society deems children to be unable to express personal choices about other areas like buying alcohol, smoking or getting married.

“We should be very cautious about imposing religious conformity on a society which has always valued freedom of expression.”

Harassment allegations

Sexual harassment or abuse will not be tolerated in the Liberal Democrats. We have acknowledged that there have been failings in the past. We have apologised for those publicly and we are determined they will not be repeated.

That’s why we set up an independent inquiry into the party’s culture and practices, which was widely publicised and made a number of recommendations which are now being implemented.

Anyone who had suffered harassment or abuse was encouraged to come forward and give evidence and that evidence was taken extremely seriously. Anyone who has not come forward is encouraged to do so by contacting the independent helpline we have set up for anyone who wishes to make a complaint or seek advice.

As a result of the inquiry we have made a number of changes to make it clearer and easier to make a complaint; to improve our party’s HR practices; and change our party’s rules to make clear that such behaviour will result in disciplinary action.

Any suggestion that we have been anything other than completely open is wrong. Every part of this process has been transparent and the recommendations have been debated and approved this weekend, in the conference hall and in front of live TV cameras.

Polling

The latest Ashcroft poll of marginal seats only sampled Tory held seats, 32 which are Labour facing and 8 Lib Dem. Those 8 are Oxwab, Montgomeryshire, Camborne & Redruth, Truro & Falmouth, Newton Abbot, Harrogate, St Albans and Watford.

In those 8 seats we are almost neck a neck with the Conservatives. Voting intention is Con 32 Lib Dem 29 Lab 18 Ukip 12.

Asked whether each party shares their values, 37% of people in those seats agreed the Lib Dems did, 35% agreed Labour did and 30% Tories. Asked whether they agreed that each party was ‘on the side of people like me’ 40% agreed that the Lib Dems are, 40% Lab and 25% Tories.

We are seen as particularly strong on the environment, with 45% saying we would do the best job of protecting it, 20% Cons and 19% Lab.

We are the most active party in these seats. In the last few months we’ve knocked on the door of 14% of homes in these seats (Con 12% Lab 8%); telephoned 3% (Con 2% Lab 1%); delivered to 41% (Con 36% Lab 23%).

Conference narrative

The Liberal Democrats go into conference in confident mood. We are the most united of the major parties, with a proud record of achievement in Government. At this conference we will begin to set out our stall for the local and European elections next year and the General Election in 2015. We are planning for a second term in Government as the only party capable of delivering a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

There will be a number of important debates that will form the basis of our policy platform for 2015, including on the economy, fairer taxes, higher education, Europe, nuclear power and defence.

We are a party with a clear priority – jobs and easing the squeeze on household budgets. Liberal Democrats have cut taxes for working people and helped businesses to create more than a million jobs – now we want to help them create a million more.

We are in Scotland just a year before the country votes in the independence referendum. Liberal Democrats are proud of our United Kingdom and strongly believe our two nations are better together. A vote to stay in the UK is not a vote for no change. Liberal Democrats want to see further powers transferred to Scotland as part of the UK.

Key achievements in Government

In Government, Liberal Democrats have:

·         Given a £700 tax cut to more than 20m working people and lifted 2.7m of the poorest workers out of paying Income Tax altogether

·         Helped businesses create more than a million jobs

·         Created a record 1.2m apprenticeships

·         Given extra money for the children who need it the most through the £2.5bn Pupil Premium

·         Introduced radical plans for shared parental leave

·         Given generous rises in the state pension through our ‘triple lock’ – now worth an extra £650 since Labour

·         Given the poorest two-year-olds and all three-and-four year-olds 15 hours of free childcare per week

·         Passed a Bill introducing Equal Marriage for all couples

·         Invested billions in renewable energy and energy efficiency, supporting thousands of green jobs

How we are helping to create jobs

In Government, we have helped create:

·         Jobs for young people– 1.2m apprentices and 110,000 work placements for young people out of work

·         Jobs in manufacturing– £5.5bn extra into science, high-tech manufacturing and renewable energy

·         Jobs across the country – £2.6bn in our Regional Growth Fund, giving money to growing businesses around the country

·         Jobs building Britain– £15.3bn to improve Britain’s roads, railways and housing

·         Help for job creators– £2,000 cash back to employers on the tax they pay on their employees, to make it more affordable for businesses to take on staff

·         Green jobs– £3bn to fund the world’s first Green Investment Bank, putting extra money into renewable energy

·         Rural jobs– £530m to improve access to superfast broadband, creating jobs and helping rural businesses

Now we are campaigning to double the number of workplaces who offer apprenticeships in the UK – from 100,000 to 200,000.

The SNP Government is allowing Scotland to fall behind on apprenticeships.The percentage of employers offering apprenticeships in Scotland is lower than in England and the growth of apprentice new starts in Scotland has slowed, compared to a big rise in England.

We are also campaigning for the Welsh Government to fund a programme to highlight the benefits of apprenticeships for businesses and young people.

Labour

Labour cannot be trusted to build a stronger economy. They crashed the economy and have no answers on how to create jobs and get the economy growing.

·         “There’s no money left” – Labour nearly bankrupted Britain. We are cleaning up their mess.

·         Labour let the banks run wild. They cosied up to gamblers in the City of London and left us all with a huge bill when the banks collapsed

·         Labour’s numbers don’t add up. Their extra spending and unfunded tax cuts would break their own debt rules and add £201bn to the UK’s debt for our children and grandchildren to pay off (source: IFS)

Ed Miliband is a weak leader of a divided party that has nothing to say about the big issues of the day. Despite scaremongering for years, they have been proved wrong. Wrong on the economy. Wrong that unemployment would soar.

Time and time again Ed Miliband has been called upon to make a decision and time and time again he has ducked it. He has no answers to some of the biggest questions facing the country:

·         Where do Labour stand on the economy?

·         Where do Labour stand on welfare?

·         Where do Labour stand on Europe?

·         What is the Labour policy on schools?

·         What is the Labour policy on the NHS?

Conservatives

The Conservatives on their own cannot build a fairer society. In Government we have blocked Tory plans to:

·         Allow bosses to fire staff at will

·         Give an inheritance tax cut to millionaires

·         Let schools be run for profit

Tory backbenchers have shown their true colours in recent months, not least when a group of them released their Alternative Queen’s Speech, which included plans to:

·         Bring back the death penalty

·         Ban the burka

·         Privatise the BBC

·         Introduce an annual ‘Margaret Thatcher Day’

Independence

·         Scotland has the best of both worlds as part of the UK with a Scottish Parliament that makes domestic decisions and a strong voice in the UK Parliament.

·         Devolution delivers for Scotland and we are doing well as part of the UK family.

·         We are campaigning to win the referendum on 18 Sept 2014.

·         A vote to stay in the UK is not a vote for no change. Liberal Democrats want to see further powers transferred to Scotland as part of the UK.

Chris Huhne quits as he admits “smears” were true

By DAVID WOODING

FEW things are ever clear-cut when trying to get to the truth in politics. We encounter spin, twisting the facts and downright lies.

Then there’s Chris Huhne.

The former Cabinet minister who oozes self-belief has been lying through his teeth for nearly two years.  He swore blind the he would prove the newspapers wrong after they exposed how he made his wife take his speeding points so he wouldn’t get a driving ban.

The deception dates back to March 12, 2003 when Mr Huhne’s car was caught by a speed camera on the M11 near Stansted Airport.

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Chris Huhne: Waving goodbye to politics?

But now he faces a possible jail sentence after today admitting perverting the court of justice. Mr Huhne also announced he will resign as MP for Eastleigh in Hampshire.

The 58-year-old Lib Dem had vehemently denied the claims when he was first charged last February, and repeated the denials in court as recently as last week.

He was represented by John Kelsey-Fry QC, one of the country’s most sought after barristers during the proceedings at Southwark Crown Court.

It is always sad to see anybody’s career ruined. This tragedy was so needless when it was over a driving ban which would have been a one-day wonder in the papers at the time.

But let’s not forget that he was a contender for his party’s leadership when he stood against Nick Clegg in 2007.

It’s another shining example of how “lies” in the media so often turn out to be the truth.

And why we must not allow politicians like Mr Huhne to shackle the Press any more than it already is.