Which party benefitted most from last week´s fuel price crisis in Britain? The obvious answer is the Conservatives but The Guardian´s ICM poll, taken over the weekend, suggests a less clear cut answer. Asked the standard question, Who would you vote for in general election tomorrow?, 38 per cent said Conservative (up 4 per cent), 34 per cent named Labour (down 10 per cent) and 22 per cent Liberal Democrat (up 5 per cent). So, as often happens in a period of political volatility, the LibDems provide a safe haven for those sheltering from the storm.

The irony, of course, is that on the day the poll was published the LibDems at their conference at Bournemouth confirmed that they are the party of higher taxation. The stand they took at the last election for tax increases was confirmed and extended, although they were careful, given present circumstances, to propose a five year freeze on the existing levels of fuel taxes.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party honest enough to say plainly that if the British people want better public services they will have to pay for them through taxation. The fact that this policy has not substantially increased their representation in the House of Commons is more a judgement on the hypocrisy of the British electorate than on the LibDems´ idealism.

RAY FLEMING

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