The decision to raise the higher rate of tax from 40p in the £1 to 50p is a spectacular boomerang.
Those intellectual giants, Brown and Balls, plotting in the bunker at Number 10 thought a 50p tax rate would split the Tories and with luck unite all but the very rich against the Conservatives. If David Cameron backed it, surely Tories would queue up to condemn him. If he opposed it, surely the country would flock to Brown’s side. They never thought that David Cameron would reveal it for what it is – a tawdry piece of juvenile and foolish politics at a time when we needed a budget for national recovery and solvency.
Instead of it being a major new weapon to define politics in a way favourable to Labour, it has become a huge and looming Labour bomerang. Blairites are queueing up to condemn it. Moderate Labour MPs wanting to keep their seats are amazed at the vitriol being poured against them for the budget. Many Labour MPs who individually might like a soak the rich approach know that the veneer of New Labour and the Blair magic was important to their past victories, and new feel very naked with the New decisively and finally stripped from the brand. Economists and forecasters are pointing out that higher rates may result in less revenue. Wait for the news of businesses and entrepreneurs moving abroad. Read the figures the government has produced to show the collapse of revenue we face anyway.
It all underlines Labour politics in the age of McBride. It is cynical, nasty, and all for effect and spin. Many decent Labour MPs need to send signals to their electors that they do not go along with all of this. 50p tax turned out to be as divisive and effective as Mr Brown hoped, but not at splitting the Tories but at splitting Labnour.
For his sake,the sooner he U turns the better. I suspect he will not, so his civil war will intensify.
To change the metaphor, his big gun against the Tories has recoiled and done great collateral damage. Where will he try next? His list of broken election pledges is now long. The public will remember for a long time the cynical destruction of the offer of a referendum on Lisbon, and the way he set aside the pledge not to raise income tax rates.