Whilst Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat MP, welcomed measures announced at the party’s conference in Glasgow, Daniel Zeichner, the Labour parliamentary candidate in the 2015 General Election, argues that the Liberal Democrats are a spent force.
Both are considered to be the two most likely candidates to win Cambridge in the 2015 election.
Speaking to The Cambridge Student, Julian Huppert stressed his support for key Lib Dem measures announced at the conference. Amongst these are plans to re-establish the East-West rail and to build 50,000 new homes at towns along the re-opened route between Oxford and Cambridge, to increase pay for apprentices, and to levy a form of ‘mansion tax’ on the rich by creating additional council tax bands.
Asked whether taxation on assets of the rich should be pursued with vigour, Huppert responded enthusiastically. He stated that ‘wealth taxation was definitely the way to go’. Presented with the potential iniquities of wealth taxes, Huppert said that, in an ideal world, wealth taxes would be extended to other assets. He conceded that impracticalities prevented this but he argued that it was right to start off with property. In contrast to income, he said ‘property cannot be moved offshore.’
Daniel Zeichner, however, was unconvinced: ‘before the election, they promised not to raise VAT, a regressive tax, then supported the Conservative tax-rise to 20%. They also backed cutting the top rate of income tax from 50%. The Lib Dems claim to be progressive, but the reality is very different.’
Zeichner went on to say that the Lib Dems cannot overturn a widespread mistrust in the party after the breaking of key pledges made in 2010. When canvassing the constituency, ‘not a single person mentioned the Liberal Democrat Conference.’ He argued that ‘Nick Clegg and his colleagues simply aren't believed, so no-one is listening.’
In response, Huppert underlined that Labour had broken promises on two occasions regarding tuition fees, introducing them in the first place and subsequently increasing them. Huppert personally opposed the tuition fees rise and argued that his constituents would value this.
Yet, the level of mistrust surrounding the Liberal Democrats is particularly high among students. The National Union of Students published its latest polling of students on Monday: the Lib Dems showing just 5% support. By contrast, in a similar poll conducted in 2010, the Lib Dems polled 50% support amongst students.
Responding to these findings, Huppert referred to his track record which he believes will be important in determining the Cambridge result in 2015. He suggested his support amongst students remains strong, citing his opposition to the tuition fees rise, his support for civil liberties, and his commitment to the environment as the principal reasons.