Clegg incurs wrath of Sugar over free pensioner bus passes

Lib Dem leader can brush off Lord Sugar's insults, but it's the middle classes he needs to worry about

Column LAST UPDATED AT 07:37 ON Wed 26 Sep 2012

NICK CLEGG has triggered a row with a rich pensioner - Apprentice boss Lord Sugar - by singling out the Labour peer in his "tax the rich" strategy ahead of the Lib Dem leader's keynote conference speech today.

Clegg, whose conference theme is fairer taxes in hard times, offered a populist bone to his party members, including communities minister Don Foster who called for universal benefits such as free TV licences, bus passes and winter fuel allowances to be cut for rich pensioners.

Clegg ruled out any change until after the next election, but said: "There's a question mark on whether people such as Peter Stringfellow or Alan Sugar have available to them free bus passes, subsidised by normal workers paying normal taxes and struggling to make ends meet."

Sugar retorted in a tweet: "The twit Nick Clegg moaning about me having a bus pass. Idiot I haven't got one."

Sir Alan continued: "Even if I did have a bus pass I've personally paid tens of millions in tax, and my companies hundreds of millions in the past 45 years. What has Clegg done?

"I wonder if Nick Clegg's rich wife will take her bus pass when she becomes of age, and if he will take his EU pension. The man is embaresment [sic]."

The Deputy Prime Minister might brush off Sugar but if he goes too far in punishing the middle classes to shore up his own shaky leadership position after his betrayal of students over tuition fees, he risks unnerving his potential future allies in Labour, including Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor.

Under former PM Gordon Brown, Labour increased the upper rate of income tax on the rich to 50p - something Tony Blair resisted - but it drew the line at taking universal benefits off pensioners, rich or otherwise, because unlike teenage activists worried about student fees, pensioners actually bother to vote. And the grey vote is getting bigger.

Clegg's team has leaked some of the Lib Dem leader's speech to the Guardian this morning. It says Clegg will send an austere message to his party, telling them the Liberal Democrats are willing to impose several more years of spending restraint.

He will insist they are now anchored in the centre ground and are determined never to revert to being a party of protest and opposition. But the bit they didn't brief on was Clegg's rhetoric about squeezing the rich till pips like Lord Sugar begin to squeak.

His drive to raise taxes on the wealthy to regain the support of his own party has enraged Tory coalition partners, who are privately saying Clegg's tax plans, including the mansion tax, will never be implemented under David Cameron.

One minister told the Mole: "We are not going to agree to any of these tax increases. I've checked with the Treasury team. It's a pack of bollocks. It just isn't going to happen."

The BBC Today programme was reporting this morning he will close the Brighton conference this afternoon by promising to restore the fortunes of his party and the country. But it is unlikely to do much for his own fortunes as party leader. His Tory coalition colleagues believe he is leading the Lib Dems to a general election disaster. · 

Disqus - noscript

Wasn't is hilarious? Can you imagine Stringfellow and Sugar queuing at a bus stop?

All this Lib/Dem conference has served to point out is that they think the general public at large are a lot of gullible fools. All this talk about fairness on tax, rob the rich to feed the poor just will not work. The poor are too low paid, for a full time job earning minimum wage, which if he ever bothered to check on the internet the few jobs that are advertised, are mainly offered at minimum wage amounting to £243.20 a week for the over 21 and less the younger one is, £12,646 per annum. With tax threshold being about £8,105 at present the poor are still paying tax on one third of their pay, plus their nat. ins. cont. there is not a lot left, yet he is boasting of a partial win of income tax and at the same time omitting to tell of the massive reduction in child tax credits leaving the most vulnerable, lowest paid even worse off than before the raise in the threshold. What will happen if he gets his way and ups the threshold to £10,000 will we than see a stop altogether in child tax credits. Making the rich pay more in tax is not helping the lowest paid in the least. He has just over 2 years to prove the public opinion of him wrong, two years to make up for all the lies, weakness and yellow bellied, power seeking attributes the public give him. Two years to realise the public want jobs, they'll continue to complain about their tax but without a job they are not paying tax anyway. The unemployed are getting just as despondent and feel as if they are left on the scrap heap as they did in Maggie's regime and the young are looking at drawing job seekers allowance as a way of life. All of these parties must wake up to the fact that we are not a nation of layabouts, we are a nation of workers that want work and the tax will then take care of itself. Put some money in the pot and create jobs!!!

BAD EGG Clegg just can’t see the obvious.
FREE BUS PASSES BOOST THE ECONOMY. For every £1 to go out and £1 to get home most will spend at least £5 on drinks such as coffee tea and cakes etc. Most users of the passes will spend well in excess of this on shopping etc. Should the 'Free Bus Passes' be stopped the effects of lost revue streams to both the Government and the retail sector would be catastrophic especially in this financial crisis. Jobs would be lost, a vast number of shops would close and public services especially in rural areas would be severely effected as cuts were implemented thus further isolating the rural communities. The affects of reducing 'Free Bus Passes' in any way on the elderly whose pensions have been severely crippled by Governments mishandling of 'Taxes on Pension Funds' by what many consider as Brown's Legitimized Robbery solely to falsify Browns achievements would be dire. The affects on the NHS by reducing FREE Travel would be detrimental financially as many elderly people would have declining health problems by being 'House Bound’ would result in higher costs to the Taxpayer. Perhaps the Bankers after receiving so much bad publicity (such as excessively high Bonuses) when the pubic are struggling to survive after catastrophic loses in the Banking Sectors should consider investing into the > FREE BUS PASS < Systems as the Banking Sector does already in Guernsey. After all for a relatively small investment you would boost retail shopping for a start which feeds back to the Banks, just a thought. Especially as it was the public who have bailed the ‘Banks Out’, surely one good turn deserves another?