In between their bouts of overspending and money printing, the PM and Chancellor have set out their latest political wheeze to upset the Tories.
They propose a 45p tax on earnings over £150,000 a year. Their left wing is delighted. If the Tories oppose it they can say the Tories are the party of the rich, tone deaf to the mood music of a recession hit nation. If the Tories accept it they can claim the Tories too are tax raisers. They imply the tax can fill the massive hole in the nation’s finances, with no pain for everyone else. If only.
I thought George Osborne was wise to duck this simple bouncer today. He should settle his income and other tax levels once he has taken office and has worked out the full mess he has inherited. The Conservatives have no need to make this silly stunt a big issue. They should make the stunts the issue instead.
Let’s point out that it is Labour incompetence with the public finances that has left them needing higher taxes. Let’s point out that if you confiscated all income above £150,000 you would hardly notice the dent in their whopping deficit in the first year , but you would notice the further erosion of the wider tax base as successful companies and entrepreneurs fled the country in subsequent years.
All the Tories need say is they are the party of lower taxes on effort and savings, as we will need more of both to turn this economy round. There is no need to walk right into Brown’s silly trap. We should carry on pointing out the magnitude of the debts and deficits, and the need to control public spending to start to turn it round.
I should point out that Labour’s tax trap soon brought me a phone call from the BBC. Would I like to go on to condemn the 45p? If I said yes, that would make the story “Tory tax wars”, which they would love. Meanwhile yesterday an offer to appear on Newsnight to discuss the debt petered out without any explanation before I had the details of time and place, and an accepted offer to do the Today programme this morning on the same subject was cancelled. Was it something I said, or something I would not say?