tax and be damned

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Several of you have commented that I appear to have lost my political mojo of late and, with the tories all at sea, I think I have to agree with you. Recent years have witnessed such incompetence and ineptitude that criticism feels something akin to taking candy from the proverbial baby or kicking a man whilst he’s down. Surely, five different ministerial posts in less than a single year for the political pygmy, Grant Shapps, says it all? But with the recent return of MPs to parliament I hope to rekindle my enthusiasm a little and I’ll start of by having a go, somewhat surprisingly, at the Labour Party.

With a double-digit lead in the polls, most right-minded individuals assume they’ll comfortably win next year’s election, so why the U-turns? Labour has postponed several of their more ambitious proposals, such as the green prosperity plan, their commitment to strengthen workers’ rights and changed their minds wrt increasing income tax and/or capital gains tax and promising to not introduce a wealth tax. Yes, I appreciate four consecutive electoral defeats and fourteen years in the opposition-wilderness will have left their mark but why the tory-lite stance?

Sounding uncomfortably like a Liz Truss wannabee, shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, wants to achieve prosperity by growing the economy rather than through increasing taxation. No sh*t, Sherlock and how exactly she intends to achieve this is beyond me. It may woo some marginal swing-voters but many of us wish to see a taxation system that is fairer, more progressive and one that is used more directly to address the inequalities that stem from massive disparities in income and wealth. Sadly, the good lady is deluding herself if she thinks, naively, that ruling out major structural changes on our whole taxation system will clearly demonstrate Labour’s economic competence. It won’t as most want economic security. Wealth taxes and a more progressive income tax regime would both contribute to this aim, as well as potentially broadening the tax base to provide a greater total sum of tax revenue. Taxing differently does not automatically mean taxing more.

Over a century ago a rousing call was made for a ‘land-value-tax’ which sought to implement a levy on rising land prices: “Roads are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from hundreds of miles away and all the while the landlord sits still. He renders no service to the community, contributes nothing to the general welfare and certainly nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived.” The speaker was none other than BoJo’s hero, Winston Churchill. And yet the landlord’s unearned gains remain almost untouched. A good place for Ms Reeves to start would be to immediately amend the council tax levy from bricks & mortar to land value. A tax on this would be a levy that cannot run away or be sheltered in some off-shore island haven. Follow this with a commitment to reverse the cuts to CGT, multi-nationally force international organisations to pay tax on actual sale-location, build a more punitive ‘windfall’ tax mechanism and impose a wealth tax on the very richest within society, and you have the makings of a radical but fairer, truly progressive tax regime.

Labour’s top-team need to remember that the party with no traditional Labour policies makes for a confused, ill-focused bunch. Jaded voters who are starved of hope and optimism, impoverished by a stagnant economy and mistreated by decaying public services are now completely justified in asking exactly how Labour is planning to actually rebuild, re-energise and grow our economy. How can it fund next-generation policies if it continues to rule out raising revenues by virtually all the means at its disposal?

Labour needs to generate some sense of genuine excitement otherwise Starmer’s overly-cautious approach will backfire and significantly reduce both the party’s standing and its vote.