Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator

Article excerpt

Vince Cable has a point. The government does, alas, lack a 'compelling vision for the economy' but the Liberal Democrats see this as an opportunity, not a defect. They regard George Osborne's agenda as a blank slate on to which they can write all sorts of policies: a mansion tax, capital gains tax, even a state bank which would bring to corporate Britain the sub-prime loans that triggered the financial meltdown in America. With the budget looming, open negotiations have begun. It has been a festival of bad ideas, which have prospered in the absence of a Tory agenda.

The risk of the Cameron project was not that voters would be appalled that the Prime Minister went to Eton or that his Chancellor is the heir to a baronetcy. The risk was always that the party's leadership would be so paranoid about their backgrounds that they would not defend wealth creation, or speak up for those who aspire to own a house big enough for the Lib Dems to tax.

The Tories see negotiations as something done behind closed doors; the Lib Dems prefer the medium of BBC microphones. The end result is the anti-wealth narrative which is taking hold of British politics. The rich are portrayed as leeches, somehow not paying their fair share.

Take the plans to remove child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers. In the Commons, George Osborne justified this by saying 'it is fair for the top 15 per cent of earners to make a contribution towards deficit reduction'. But this group contributes 63 per cent of all income tax collected: might this meet the Chancellor's definition of a fair share?

Time was when Conservatives would have pointed out this statistics.

Ministers who take aim at the wealthy instead hit plenty who are struggling: the strivers, to whom a Tory government ought to be dedicated. Under Osborne's proposals, a single earner on £42,000, supporting a twochild family, would be best advised to make sure he is not given a pay rise. On £43,000 he would lose the child benefit, and be £1,060 a year worse off. This is an offence against what ought to be the most fundamental Conservative principle: those who work hard should be rewarded, not penalised, by government. This principle is being applied to welfare reform, and ought to extend to society as a whole.

The mansion tax is another appalling idea.

The Lib Dems speak as if this is virgin territory for a tax-hungry government, an anomaly waiting to be ended. In fact, stamp duty and council tax already mean that Britain charges more in property tax than any other developed nation. …

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