They Are Already Taxing Credulity
CONSIDER this Monday morning the sad and curious case of the man prematurely burdened by the cares of an office he has yet to hold.
You might think Gordon Brown would be happy.
His party continues to enjoy what looks like an unassailable lead in the polls. His economic inheritance, were he to become the sitting tenant of Number 11, Downing Street, could be a lot worse . . . indeed, for all previous incoming Labour Chancellors it most certainly has been.
But Mr Brown frets and fumes. If he had a timebomb ticking in each trouser pocket, he could scarcely be more uptight.
Freud may have thought that what made repressed folk twitch was sex. What torments Mr Brown is tax.
For his mission impossible is to rid Labour of its tax and spend image.
People simply don't believe him. Surveys repeatedly confirm that most voters expect a Blair administration to put up taxes. Hardly surprising, when the majority of Labour MPs also assume that the top rate of tax should and would be raised.
Desperately Mr Brown tries to suppress informed debate about Labour and tax.
When Clare Short dared to suggest that she for one wouldn't mind paying more, she was told to shut up or leave the Front Bench. When Kim Howells, a Labour Trade and Industry spokesman, hints that the party may ditch plans to raise the upper rate on earned income from 40 to 50 per cent, Gordon Brown rules his remarks out of order.
So anxious is the Shadow Chancellor not to let the tax cat out of the bag that he almost seems to be frightened of his own shadow.
Only a week or so ago, in a rare and welcome burst of frankness, Mr Brown admitted that Labour's bold ambition for expanding higher education could not be funded without clawing money back from the welfare system. …