Lib Dems fight for green votes

Britain's politicians were fighting over 'green' votes again this week, with the Lib Dems making green taxes a central theme of their annual conference and calling the increasingly green-tinged Tories a "glorified advertising agency."

Having dropped its commitment to raising taxes at their annual gathering in Brighton this week, the Liberal Democrats are promoting their new tax package as “simpler, fairer, greener.”

Their proposals include “polluter pays” taxes on gas-guzzling cars, flights and fuel.

Together with levies on wealth these will make up for the budgetary shortfall created by tax cuts for the poorest, following the party’s decision this week not to raise overall levels of taxation.

The Green Party, whose annual conference opened in adjacent Hove as the Brighton gathering came to a close on Thursday, tried to wrestle green votes away from the Liberal Democrats by attacking them on their environmental record.

As the Lib Dems promoted their “polluter pays” message, Green Party principal speaker Keith Taylor said: “The Lib Dems cannot be taken seriously on the environment.

“You only have to look at their record in office, in Scotland where they are actually in coalition government and on local councils across the UK, of expanding motorways, expanding aviation and even campaigning against congestion charging.

“The gulf between their rhetoric and the reality couldn’t be greater,” he said.

But Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell presented his party as acting, not just talking about the environment with practical policies instead of greenwash.

He said of the proposed tax package: “It’s fairness in action; it’s environmentalism in action; it’s liberalism in action.”

Fairer taxes meant the rich and the polluters shouldering the taxation burden, he insisted:

“Those who can afford to make a greater contribution should do so,” he said.

“Yes, it means taxing aviation properly. Yes, it means fuel duty going up with inflation. And yes, it means paying more for the cars that pollute the most.

“If we are serious about the environment, only action will suffice,” he said.

The Liberal Democrat conference closed on Thursday. The Greens annual conference continues this weekend and ends on Sunday.

Goska Romanowicz

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