Wednesday, 21 March 2012

What Have The Lib Dems Done For Me?

It's easy to get hysterical over the "betrayal" of Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems who have "sold out" their voters and the poor for a moment in the limelight of Government. It's easy to lament over what might have been in a Rainbow Coalition or a quickly dissolved Tory minority Government. Tuition fees. Disability benefits. The NHS. There's plenty to beat the Lib Dems up over (if you disagree with the Coalition's positions that is, something I'm still not clear on myself).

But there is plenty of good coming out of the Coalition too. Things that are changing our country for the better in ways that seem irreversible.

The raising of the personal allowance thresholds on income tax stands out as both a major shift in how we look at "progressive" taxation and in the lives of a great many people.

I was sitting at work a few months ago and one of the part-timers at the company I work for was talking about how strange it was that she was no longer paying income tax. She said it was absolutely fantastic to get that little bit extra a month in her pay packet. I was quick to point out that this was due to a Lib Dem policy that the Government was pursuing (never miss an opportunity to evangelise...) But when I explained that the threshold would increase again this year, several other colleagues realised they too would soon be out of income tax altogether. They were, needless to say, extremely pleased. These people are generally mothers, keen to stay in work but glad for every extra penny to help them care for their families. It was great to see that something from the Lib Dem manifesto was making such a visible, positive impact on the lives of people I know. And it wasn't just something good for them.

I'm on a low salary and because my other half is quite a bit better off than I, I do not meet the requirements for the tax credits people on my wage get. Of course that doesn't take into account how we live and that we keep our finances relatively separate. The personal allowance increase last year was thus an excellent thing for someone like me who doesn't get the benefits many others on a similar wage get. That little extra money allowed me to buy some extra holiday days without being any worse off, which allowed me to spend more time with my other half during a particularly tough year health-wise. Those 5 extra days really made a difference to my quality of life.

This year my pay packet will look even healthier, and in the next year and the next. That is something we can all thank the Lib Dems for. Something that will help those on a low income regardless of their lifestyle, relationships and family situation. That is quite something indeed!

Then comes something pretty close to my heart. Marriage equality. Despite obviously my usual objections to it not being enough (I didn't give Labour an easy ride over civil partnerships, so I can't give the Coalition an easy ride of marriage equality), this is something that will touch me dearly. I have been in a long term relationship for nigh on 8 years. It's been a while since we started considering marriage. The idea that this is now no longer just a pie in the sky dream but something that may actually happen in the next couple of years leaves me a little over-excited.

On a deeply personal level this, and the Lib Dems continuing fight for religious marriage equality, leaves me so very thankful to the Lib Dems. If I live another 50 years I'd still thank them for this wonderful, wonderful chance to be able to express my love for the man I adore. Marriage equality is a huge leap forward. 

Onwards next to talk of Lords reform. Our unwritten constitution is at once a thing of wonder and a monstrous mess. The House of Lords has been picked at, moulded and defanged over and over again in the 20th century. It is now nothing more than a Frankenstein's monster. It's time for wholesale reform of this mess. Imagine a more democratic, a more powerful and a more decisive House of Lords.

Well soon we may not need to imagine any longer, for the Lib Dems in Government have managed to get this much mishandled problem reviewed and options considered. If the Lib Dems managed to get even half the reforms proposed through, they could disappear at the next election but never be forgotten. It would be the most monumental constitutional change since the 1909 People's Budget forced a previous showdown between the Commons and the Lords.

 These, of course, are the three things that most excite and interest me, but they are by no means the only Lib Dem wins in the Government.

The Lib Dems have compromised in Coalition. They've worked with the Tories in doing things that make every Lib Dem member a little uncomfortable. But it hasn't been in vain. There is a lot to be thankful for. I can thank the Lib Dems for a better quality of life and the chance to legally commit to my relationship and enjoy the protections that result. And that's after just two years of the Lib Dems in a Coalition. Imagine what a Lib Dem majority could achieve!

Thank you Liberal Democrats, I shan't forget the good things you've done!

 If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

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