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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Bob Russell and a question of "obscenity"

I agree with the Lib Dem MP Bob Russell on many things (and not just because he signed my Downing Street petition against Territorial Army cuts), but I am not sure about his question at Prime Minister's Questions today. Mr Russell asked: "If we’re all in this together what is (David Cameron) going to do about the obscenity of a thousand multi-millionaires boosting their personal wealth by 18 per cent in the last year?" This is presumably a reference to the Sunday Times Rich List. There is nothing 'obscene' about some multi-millionaires increasing their wealth at a time of economic recovery. There is no contradiction between having good public services, progressive taxation and a strategy to greatly reduce poverty, and having a dynamic economy in which some people become multi-millionaires. It is great news if some people want to start businesses and become multi-millionaires and the more people who do this, the better for the British economy. 

Such successful economic activity can be accompanied by things like the Pupil Premium (targeting funds at the schools attended by the children from the poorest homes), increased spending on the NHS and a cut in the taxes of the lowest-paid (the last of which Bob did acknowledge in his question). As Nick Clegg said in a speech today that I genuinely think was very good (I know people are cynical when grassroots party members say things like that about speeches by the party leader, but I really believe that this is a particularly good speech and well worth a read):
As a liberal party, we are unique in being equally committed to a dynamic economy and a fair society.
We know that only a successful economy can create the jobs and opportunities for real fairness.
But we also know that free economies do not magically produce fair societies. The Government has a moral responsibility to create the conditions for real fairness – real opportunities for ordinary people. 

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