Lib Dems' sensible manifesto could do more harm than good to business

As BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders has pointed out, yesterday's release of the Liberal Democrats' election manifesto unveiled a party willing to punch above its weight. The manifesto included plans to raise almost £17bn in taxes, as well as a raft of cuts to help reduce the Budget deficit.

There were a few disappointments, though: putting together Smarta's page on the parties' election pledges last month, I came across this briefing document, published by the Lib Dems in October last year, promising to allow small businesses to choose to be taxed on their cash flow, rather than their profits - which would allow businesses to reinvest their profits without being taxed on them.

No mention of that in the election manifesto, though - despite what the Telegraph may say. In fact, small businesses haven't been given many incentives to vote Liberal Democrat at all. While their plans to break up and regionalise some of the big banks are more radical than others, all the parties have promised to make banks lend more in one way or another; and promises to cut EU red tape, boost jobs and encourage innovation are all fairly standard.

In the past, there has been a sense the Liberal Democrats could have promised anything: with little chance of being voted in, they could have pledged free unicorns for every man, woman and child without much pressure to deliver.

With the spectre of a hung parliament finally giving it the possibility of having some say in policy decisions, though, it seems the party has felt it necessary to become more realistic with its promises. Which is a shame - because without someone suggesting radical ideas, how is politics going to progress?

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