Zadok Day leaves the Lib Dems but makes a very interesting observation on his way out of the door
The Labour opposition has submitted a motion on the Mansion Tax to be voted on next week. I understand why LibDem MPs will be sorely tempted to vote for it.
It is superficially attractive and comes from a good place. It will raise money helping to fund either tax cuts for the less well-off or to help pay for services (maybe). It will be popular for this reason especially at a difficult time in which public expenditure is most stretched and incomes of ordinary people are being squeezed. To be fair it also deals with the issue of an accumulation of unproductive wealth from a relatively small set of people.
The first problem with the Mansion Tax is that it won’t remain a Mansion Tax for long. Once the principle of this tax has been introduced, bit by bit, I expect Governments will find a way to raise further revenues, using this tax, by lowering the threshold and ultimately nearly every homeowner will be paying it. I favour the principle of progressive taxation, but this is not the one to choose.
Secondly, there is the obvious point about the asset wealthy, cash poor retired widow being caught by this tax and it is no less valid for that. Why should she have to move from her home to which she has a sentimental attachment?
Thirdly, where I come from in South West London there are many properties that will be over the £2m threshold and four seats in this area are held by LibDem MPs. Simon Jenkins alluded to the political difficulty of the tax in a piece in the Guardian a few months ago. Since the LibDems support comes largely (but not exclusively) from the middle-class, this policy is likely to be politically disadvantageous in seats the Party needs to hold in 2015.
I should suggest what I would choose in its place. An introduction of an additional “I” band for Council Tax is not perfect, but to me it sits more easily with instinctive and balanced sense of fairness. As Jenkins has said, the Welsh Assembly Government has already embarked on this. Such a move would not obviate the need for a resetting of the property values (set in 1991) in due course.
Enlightened as it is, Mansion Tax is a mistake and I hope LibDem MPs will vote against Labour´s motion on Tuesday.
British Influence: Britain should reform, not leave, the European Court of Human Rights. It's an inherently British institution. -
Leaving the European Court of Human Rights would severely diminish Britain’s influence and leadership role in the world and in Europe.
A British invention, the Court has helped protect the fundamental rights of citizens, including in the UK from Government and police violation since…
A Brief History of Liberty: Labour's southern extinction -
Take a look at the results of the 2010 General Election and you may notice that if you take the south of England (the southwest, southeast and east of england, excluding London which is hugely different culturally and politically), Labour aren’t too strong. In fact, they have only ten…
The SWP and all that -
By Paul Richards
So there you have it, the Prime Minister has made his much anticipated speech on Europe and theUK’s relationship with it.
As I understand it, he has promised a referendum to the British people, should the Conservative Party win the next General Election - and he remains Prime Minister – legalisation would be put down to allow a vote on whether the UK remains in the EU or not, to take place during the life of next parliament.
I don’t think it’s disingenuous to promise a referendum under these criteria, but it does look like wishful thinking. Firstly, looking at the polls, the Tories are unlikely to win an overall majority at the next General Election. As pointed out on BBC Newsnight last night, if the Conservatives do not win outright but are the largest party, do they make their referendum pledge a red line in their negotiations with other parties? I doubt the LibDems could agree to an in-out referendum in this context.
Secondly to echo Guy Verhofstadt’s point, other member states might be unwilling to negotiate opt-outs and claw-backs of powers for solely the UK since they may seek exceptions for themselves and so the EU starts to pull itself apart. It is welcome that Angela Merkel said that she would consider what Britain might ask for, in a similar way to those from other states but this is not a commitment to agreeing to unspecified requests a future UK Government might make.
Since the criteria for holding such a referendum are quite nebulous and are unlikely to be met, I doubt the referendum will occur. I’m not even sure if one is a good idea. As Vince Cable, Ed Milliband and Richard Branson all have said recently that to raise the spectre of theUK leaving the EU risks an uncertainty harmful to the economic recovery and I think so too.
The PM was asked what would happen if there is an unsatisfactory outcome of any negotiations but he found it difficult to answer. There is no good answer because it centres in on the gap in the strategy.
If there is any opportunity to negotiate at all, the UK ought to do so only the basis of a coalition of the willing. In the recent negotiations over the EU Budget, the British Government worked with other like minded governments to avoid the above-growth increase. David Cameron did a good thing there and I would like him to keep that pragmatic approach and avoid the isolation of much of the 1980s and 90s.
The EU hasn’t the time to indulge the UK’s national existential crisis about the EU. Bond yields are starting to fall so perhaps the worst of the Eurozone crisis is behind us – although it has some way to go in the economy experienced by families and businesses. Yet the Eurozone’s efforts to resolve problems over the currency’s future are ongoing and in all candour that is far more important. Not merely to the Eurozone but also to the UK.
There is a case for returning some powers to Member States (criminal justice etc.) and to address issues of the EU’s democratic deficit, accountability and transparency, but I am far from convinced that now is the time for this introspection. This should be done in the context of any future Treaty change and even then only so far as some of our European partners are prepared to go.
It might have preferred a cultural Europe over one that stresses the political and economic. Surely the movements in art and music such as the Renaissance, the enlightenment and end of empires and other shared experiences bind Europe together as do politics and markets It would be welcome to see these given greater emphasis.
I consider myself a European culturally and emotionally and in no-way a Little Englander. My academic background is internationalist (European History, International Security and International Trade). Yet in the past decade or so I was quite discontented at the democratic deficit of the EU and its protectionism as well as frustrated at the failure of the British Pro-Europeans to challenge them. So regretfully, I shifted towards Euroscepticism. I felt safe doing so since there was little serious prospect of the UK leaving the EU. However, recent months and this speech in particular have led me to think again. From now and for the next few years, the UK withdrawal leaving the EU is a real prospect and my former Euroscepticism is no longer a harmless position. It ‘s good to be on the pro-EU side of the argument again.
British Influence: Dan Hannan is wrong on the EU and trade - in City UK -
Dan Hannan is wrong that our membership of the EU is bad for our trade for a number of reasons:
- Trade with developing countries is not prevented by the EU but is limited by domestic policy. Germany manages to trade more with China than it does with France and has many more trade missions in…
Guidelines for Submitting Demos
It’s still the economy, stupid, which is why the two Eds should be worried about 2013
Media doesn’t realise that Osborne’s Plan A is already shelved | Liberal Conspiracy