The Penn and Teller of British politics

March 24, 2012 11:34 am

If the two Ed’s are to be characterised as Wallace and Gromit, then I think it only right that we come up with an appropriate moniker for George and Dave. I propose Penn and Teller, as a double act that are almost as adept at giving with one hand while taking with the other.

This may have been the most widely leaked Budget in history. The Commons was unusually subdued during the Chancellor’s statement, as everyone had already heard virtually every single announcement. Even the Brown-esque “save the best for last” flourish of a major acceleration in raising personal income tax allowances failed to generate any real excitement, since it was as predictable as a Ken Clarke snooze.

Things began to liven up once Ed Miliband rose to respond, most notably when he politely invited the Government front bench to raise their hands if they will benefit from the cut in the 50p rate of income tax. It was one of Ed’s best Commons performances to date and played well in the media thereafter.

The political consequences of this Budget will hinge on the public’s reaction to the 50p announcement. Will they be persuaded by Osborne’s boast that the rich will pay five times more as a result of this Budget? He has taken a monumental gamble that they will.

The devil of course will be in the detail. Ed Balls has already taken to the airwaves with his counter-interpretation of the HMRC report which the Chancellor took as his green light to cut the 50p rate.

Balls points out that the report confirms the cost of cutting the top rate will be £3bn next year – the equivalent of giving £10,000 to every top-rate taxpayer. Recouping this rests on the assumption that by cutting the 50p rate, those currently evading or avoiding it will decide to pay up.

It was interesting to hear the Chancellor describe those who evade or aggressively avoid tax as “morally repugnant”. The punishment for morally repugnant behaviour is, apparently, a tax cut which vindicates said behaviour.

And isn’t there a rather contradictory logic in damning the 50p rate for its negative impact on the UK’s competitiveness, whilst simultaneously heralding with great fanfare the fact that the rich will now (allegedly) pay five times as much?

For Labour, this shouldn’t be about being ideologically wedded to the 50p tax rate. Appearing to be so makes it all too easy for opponents to paint the party as anti-wealth and anti-aspiration.

The economic debate over 50p will run and run. But it is the political impact which will have the most telling consequences.

Simon Fitzpatrick works on financial policy at Cicero Consulting .

  • MonkeyBot5000

    I see your point, but I actually like Penn and Teller.

  • Jason Butcher

    More like Dick Dastardly and Mutley.

Latest

  • News Miliband to outline Labour’s home-building plan tomorrow

    Miliband to outline Labour’s home-building plan tomorrow

    Tomorrow, Ed Miliband will outline Labour’s plan for house building and creating a fairer renting market. At a People’s Question Time in Hove, the Labour leader will explain how the current government has failed the millions of people who want to own a home but are unable to because of the ongoing housing crisis. Labour’s plan for housing includes ensuring that 200,000 more homes are built every year by 2020, giving local communities more robust powers to build the homes and […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour MP says party shouldn’t rule out a ‘grand coalition’ with the Tories

    Labour MP says party shouldn’t rule out a ‘grand coalition’ with the Tories

    Gisela Stuart, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, has said that Labour shouldn’t rule out forming a ‘grand coalition’ with the Tories after the next election if neither party win a majority. Stuart told the Financial Times (£): “If on May 8 you had a position where Labour had more seats than the Tories but not enough to form a government — but the Tories had more votes than Labour — I think you should not dismiss the possibility of a grand coalition […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Zero Discrimination Day: why LBGT rights matter worldwide

    Zero Discrimination Day: why LBGT rights matter worldwide

    When Ed Miliband appointed me his LGBTI global envoy he displayed once again his grasp of the wrongs that exist in the world and our need to be part of the resolution of these defining issue. His lead was followed this month when President Obama appointed Randy Berry as State Department LGBT envoy. And this is extremely important because when oppression and discrimination are on the increase that is precisely when we need to give our voice to the voiceless. […]

    Read more →
  • News One million more families will have to pay the Bedroom Tax if the Tories win in May, figures show

    One million more families will have to pay the Bedroom Tax if the Tories win in May, figures show

    One million more families will have to pay the Bedroom Tax if the Tories win the election in May, according to figures examined by the Labour party. These figures show that 220,000 more families would have to pay the tax each year of the five yearlong Tory government. As it stands, of those paying the tax – which on average amounts to £14 more a week in rent for an extra bedroom and £25 for two or more – one […]

    Read more →
  • News Polling Two-thirds are in favour of Labour’s tuition fee pledge, poll finds

    Two-thirds are in favour of Labour’s tuition fee pledge, poll finds

    YouGov polling on behalf of The Times Red Box, has found that two-thirds of people are in favour of Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year. As we reported on Friday, Labour announced they would cut tuition fees and increase the maintenance grant by £400. They would fund this by reducing tax reliefs given to the country’s wealthiest pensioners. This policy would come in to force for those entering universities in September 2016. YouGov have […]

    Read more →
lablist-logo mark-ferguson maya conor coffee-cup
Everything Labour. Every Weekday Morning
×