Even a broken clock is right twice a day – once if digital – and it may be that time, just that rare occasion, fleeting as it is, for the Liberal Democrats. I know, I know, such a statement is truly shocking, particularly coming from me, but I try to be fair – I even credited Peter Mandelson as being right just once here at ConservativeHome – and it seems as if, just possibly, it's the turn of our orange-tinged frenemies (friends + enemies) to bask in the glow that is my endorsement. Poor them!
Of course we have yet to see details, so I retain the right to retract my backing, but the recent noises from the Lib Dems – abolishing Inheritance Tax in return for new Council Tax bands – deserves an enthusiastic acknowledgement. With caveats, such as questions over the number and weighting of the bands, the fact that Inheritance Tax is back on the chopping block is in itself great news.
Inheritance Tax, levied as it is at a time of sadness, on assets that are often valued sentimentally, which have already been taxed as income, and which could have been disposed of – either gifted or just spent – to avoid the tax, is generally about as immoral, disgusting and unconservative as humanly possible. Inheritance Tax is a tax on those that save; those that pay back debts, rather than die in debt; those that seek to leave something to their children and grandchildren. It's a tax on life's conservatives. That such a disgraceful tax is facing its own demise should be cause for jubilation, pending of course details.
But that cheer must be tempered with thought. Inheritance Tax is hugely unpopular – the pledge to increase the threshold to £1 million is what scuppered Brown's early election – and abolishing it, going that stage further, would be a clear and concrete achievement of an election pledge. Of course I don't particularly like the idea of new Council Tax bands – can't we axe the Department of Culture to fund it instead? – but there's talk of giving homeowners a choice, which is a concept I find interesting. Yet we are hearing these noises from the Lib Dems, not the Conservatives, a sign that they are not intending to vacate the affluent southern seats such as Cheltenham that they have hijacked from the blue column so effectively. That means we need to face reality: the Lib Dems may be right about abolishing Inheritance Tax, maybe we should steal their idea?