Thursday, 4 October 2007

Blue Monday

With all the sneering, upper-class contempt that only the Tories can muster, George Osborne sought on Monday to denigrate the man he never managed to beat in the Commons. I suppose it's easier when there's no-one to argue back. It allows you to make some truly absurd assertions.

Apparently it's stamp duty that has kept first time buyers out of the housing market, despite the fact that the savings gained from its total elimination would be swallowed by the monthly rise in house prices.

We're told it's Gordon's fault that pensions are in a state, and it's true that £5 billion pounds was wiped off by the treasury tax simplification. £250 billion pounds however was wiped off by the stock market fluctuations following the dot com bubble and 9/11.

And then, in Toryland, it was the actions of central government that led to Northern Rock, while Osborne eulogised the inherent sense of global markets, and actions taken when millions act in harmony. In reality, Northern Rock was caused precisely by the incompetence of unregulated markets, and the dark side of what happens when many individual decisions are made wrongly. And it was central government that had to step in and save the day.

Whereas Gordon spoke of unity, of Britishness and values, of encouraging the potential of everyone, Osborne made it clear once again exactly who votes for the Tories. The rich. Here, we saw the diarchy, based on the purported New Labour model. A shiny, happy, politically androgynous leader for the voters, and a dyed-in-the-wool chancellor to let the party know its core values will be at the heart of policy. And so it was time to pay the piper. They'd stomached the green taxes that would make them pay a bit more for that fourth annual holiday, they'd gritted their teeth while the grammar schools debacle raged, they'd stifled their disgust when told civil partnerships were on par with marriage. And so, here came their break.

And what a break it was. A promise to abolish that most Liberal of taxes, that on privilege, with the added treat of removing the nuisance of a fee to the exchequer for their extortionate property dealings. And as a garnish, a token admonishment to all those vulgar foreigners who have been driving up the cost of good help in Chelsea.

What the inheritance tax reforms would represent is a direct transferral from the poor to the rich. Only 6% of the population pay inheritance tax. The tax raises around £3.5 billion a year. It affects wealth, not income, and so is no barrier to aspiration. It is in fact despised by many Tories because it is so meritocratic, ensuring little Tamsin and Tarquin have to at least make a token effort to work. These reforms will do nothing to help the 31% of households who do not own the property they live in, nor will they help the vast majority whose assets are less than £300,000. They will rob those most in need, in order to help those who already have the means to help themselves.

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