I have to say that I have been sitting on the fence as far as the general election is concerned. I am overcome with disillusionment with New Labour's first term and its many empty policies. Its “Ambitions for Britain”, while attractive, still ring hollow. As to whether the Tories are strong enough to carry through their ambitious alternatives, we might never know but I suspect a good dose of “Common Sense” is not the whole answer.
The Liberal Democrats attract a certain appeal and put their terms more simply in “Freedom, Justice and Honesty”. Yes, everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of their lives in a fair and open manner but they cannot do that if they are restricted by poor pay and quite basically lack choice in education, health, welfare and employment.
Being able to make more choices provides people with a chance for change and improvement in their lives.
Most welcome is the support for polarisation which the other two parties have just dithered about.
The call for the naming and shaming of companies guilty of misselling in an effort to protect the consumer even further against poor advisers is surely a more open and fairer financial services provision for the public. It can only improve the professionalism of the IFA. I am not so sure, though, that we need to extend the powers of the FSA.
In allowing more choice, the LibDems are actually looking to relax the annuity regulations and the compulsory requirement to purchase an annuity by age 75. It is the only party to call for free personal care for people in means-tested long-term care and fund substantial immediate increases in pensions.
The LibDems would also increase the state pension (and extend this entitlement to all) and reward pensioners who have managed to save £12,000 rather than deny them help. At least they are open about making their new Owned Second Pension Account compulsory and recognise that all the propaganda in the world will not make the lower-paid put money into pensions.
Their promise to oppose stamp duty on share trading and property is a good incentive for investors and those wanting to move further up the housing ladder or relocate. It gives people options and, coming back to my earlier point, can lead to improvements in many areas of life.
Other plans include inheritance tax being replaced with an accessions tax levied on the bequeathed rather than on the deceased and the reform of capital gains tax to link it more to income. These surely provide for a fairer approach to these taxes.
In addition, the Liberal Democrats say they will provide a sound economy to deliver prosperity for all, enable British entry to the euro (subject to the decision of the British people in a referendum) and make taxation clearer and more accountable. This has to be good news.
It is a brave party to raise taxes when all others say they are lowering theirs. Let's face it, if you want to improve the quality of life for all, then there is no getting way from the fact that resources have to be provided.
I am not averse to investing indirectly to help policies on education and the future of workforce. In Germany, the residents actually pay an additional tax for the regeneration of East Berlin to ensure its rapid progress, with many proud of their contribution.
Any party that can help me to enhance my role within financial services, without heavy restrictions and in a fair and open manner, will get my vote. So far, the Liberal Democrats are demonstrating that this could be a real chance for change in that direction.