Labour’s pitch at the moment is that everything in this country is screwed. I’m sort of reluctant to accept that, given that if everything were screwed it would surely have taken more than 4 years for it all to become screwed – wouldn’t it? I mean, screwing everything in 4 years would be an absolutely world-class effort and I really don’t think we can credit the Tories with anything world-class at all. So I’m left with the sneaking suspicion that ‘everything is screwed’ might also be aimed, subtly, at the 13 years of New Labour government which preceded the 4 years of Tory government.
The only other way of understanding ‘everything is screwed’ is that democracy is a zero-sum game and when people healthily exercise their right to change the party/ies of government then any good stuff which went before gets negated. Unless, of course, ‘everything is screwed’ is designed as a counsel of despair encouraging us to question the value of democracy itself?
I don’t know which is worse – the idea that Labour would imply that that New Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories were/are all as crap as each other OR that doubling the budget of the NHS in real terms, say, can only ever have a brief and transient effect OR that we really should be giving serious thought to the merits of a one–party state.
I do know this, though: all of the above sounds mighty sweet to the SNP.
The SNP is a populist, centre-right party which is seeking to bag the large, moderate, middle-class general-election vote in Scotland by avoiding nutty old-left proclamations while saying they would not back a Tory administration at Westminster. In other words, in Scotland erstwhile Labour voters will be able to protest-vote against ‘London Labour’ on account of being ‘the same as London Tories’, while encouraging a party which will seek to use its own powers at Holyrood to reduce corporation tax and funnel free things to the middle-classes. And all while secure in the truth that while voting against Labour they won’t be helping the Tories into government.
So, hey, The Labour Party, maybe everything isn’t completely screwed after all? Maybe New Labour did actually do some super stuff which endures today and maybe moderate Scots (and non-Scots) would even like a bit more?
But while I’m not prepared to accept that absolutely everthing is screwed, I’m pretty sure the ‘mansion tax’ idea is.
Here is a building most people would accept is a mansion. Here’s another. Here’s another. These are the images Labour wants to put into your mind with the nutty, old-left, eat-the-rich phrase ‘mansion tax’. But of course none of these mansions – like the overwhelming majority of mansions in the UK – will be covered by the mansion tax. Instead, a lot of homes which aren’t mansions but are (almost exclusively) in or near London will be covered.
Because London homes are enormously sought after by wealthy folk from overseas, a lot of folk who very much don’t live in mansions have quite a lot of capital in their home but pretty normal incomes. Many simply won’t be able to pay the ‘mansion tax’ monthly, and nor will they want to watch the value of their investment decline as a deferred ‘mansion tax’ bill mounts up alarmingly over the years. So how can they avoid the mansion tax? Why, by buying a real mansion, of course. Plenty of such folk can be pretty mobile if they have to be and others, maybe moving into middle-age, will be happy to take a reduced earned income in return for a real mansion and a chunk of capital. And who will they sell their London pads to? Why, much richer people from overseas who don’t give a monkey’s about the ‘mansion tax’ of course.
So, let’s see, this is the plan up one of Labour’s sleeves. Place at the centre of the general election an increase in NHS expenditure funded (even although the sums don’t add up) by having regular middle-class folk move out of London in order to be replaced by much richer folk from overseas; promise the Scots – almost none of whom will pay the new tax – that the folk actually paying the tax will have no say whatever in how that money is spent in Scotland. And for good measure ensure that the Scots, who may well hold the balance of UK power after the election, can have all the say they like when it comes to telling the English mansion tax payers how their tax pounds must be spent. Meanwhile, imply that everything is screwed because all the UK-wide parties have made things that way.
Jesus. I wonder what’s up the other sleeve?