Saturday, 28 June 2008

"Lurch to the left"? If only!

I nearly fell off my chair during PMQs this week when David Cameron accused Gordon Brown's government of "lurching to the left". What on earth was he thinking?

On every issue I can think of, the present New Labour regime continues the neocon rightwing policies that have been in operation since 1997. Indeed, on some issues it actually now seems to be to the right of the Tory party, in so far as one can make out where the latter stands on anything.

I would refer Cameron to a Polly Toynbee piece the other week entitled If a Martian taxman landed now, he'd never guess Labour was in power. The title says it all, I think.

Ms Toynbee's main thrust is that New Labour has never bothered to try to make the basic social-democratic case for fair taxation:

Labour has never talked openly and honestly about tax. Shifty and apologetic, ministers use the language of the right - all taxes are a "burden", all redistribution disguised. Labour's tax cuts were money thrown away on a one-day budget wonder. As they didn't fit a Labour ideological identity, no one believed it. Indeed they are right as secret fiscal drag, failing to raise thresholds, has quietly brought more people into higher tax brackets - but not the richest, whose earnings rose fastest; no new tax band for them.

Under the shadow of Labour's tax system, the wall between haves and have-nothings grows higher. Shelter reports this week that first-time buyers now need 78% more money to get on the housing ladder than a decade ago. Only those with cash from parents stand a chance - and here Labour has widened the asset gap between the 70% home-owners and the 30% with nothing.

Worst of all was the sudden panicky abolition of inheritance tax:
When George Osborne promised at the Tory conference to raise the IHT threshold to £1m, that was the precise moment when Labour lost everything - the moment Brown funked the election and Labour lost its last shred of fiscal identity in rushing to copy the Tories. Just as the lowest earners lost their 10p tax rate, the wealthy got an unearned £700,000 untaxed. (.....) Equal opportunities for all children were forgotten in a moment of panic: birth has become destiny more certainly than ever, and Labour helped strangle a mechanism that spread wealth more fairly.

Ms Toynbee concludes that "the young have never heard any politician explain what progressive tax is for - the word redistribution being unheard in the lexicon of modern politicians. Now this most fundamental argument needs to be made all over again, before it's too late."

I completely share her analysis and her concern. The difference between her and me is that she, despite everything, still clings desperately to the hope that Labour might get back to being in a position worth supporting.

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