We don’t want to all be in it together

5th April, 2012 9:39 am

Nearly two weeks on and the Budget is still niggling. George Osborne doesn’t just walk out into the political motorway without looking left and right and Britain doesn’t spend weeks debating pasties as if we’re all in Carry On Class War. And yet, here we are and the only explanation I can come up with is the 50 per cent tax rate and its links back into the debate about welfare and “responsibility”.

The fiscal arguments for the 50p rate are as slight as those for the household benefit cap: on the OBR scoring, neither of them add up to half of one per cent of Britain’s deficit this year. Both have been justified by the idea that solidarity runs from the very richest to those on the furthest periphery of society: when everyone is suffering from say, higher VAT and lower tax credits, these measures are supposed to show that no one has escaped without a bit of pain.

Except the political debate hasn’t been dominated by what the majority are losing in higher taxes and lower spending – it has been dominated precisely by the policies that have no impact on the majority. Instead, we have already paid an extra £7 billion a year in tax because of George Osborne’s policy decisions and done so while giving him a better rating on the economy than his Labour opponents. The extra taxes announced in this Budget are a shadow of those announced earlier in the Coalition’s lifetime and no one will get a smaller cheque this month than they did last. Part of the explanation for the Treasury’s poor tactics in announcing them must have been an assumption that, looking at that scorecard, they’ve persuaded the country to swallow much more bitter tasting medicine and without complaint.

Cross-breeding allusions we could say this is the curious case of the goose that didn’t hiss when it was plucked: while benefit caps and 50p rates produced cacophonies, tax rises have been met with relative silence. However badly people thought the Government was doing it, a consistent 55 to 60 per cent of us thought that cutting spending to reduce the deficit was “necessary” and I suspect a similar score would be found if a similar question made reference to the tax rises that took place in 2011.

The big change this month was cutting the 50p rate and no one on the Government side was able to make the case that reducing the 50p rate was an urgent necessity, even if they could argue it was in the UK’s long term economic interests. Outside the fortifications of that necessity argument, George Osborne suddenly looked exposed and vulnerable.

While the fiscal cases are marginal, this does suggest that there might be a more interesting political case for both the 50p rate and the benefit cap policies. They aren’t proof that we are all in this together, they are proof that we are still in charge. The we here is the bulk of the population on five figure salaries and not dependent on benefits. Despite the forced choices of a global economy and a national debt, this is still our show. And what could better prove who is in charge than demonstrating the ability to bloody mindedly pursue a decision, creating a huge outcry, even when it doesn’t raise us a great deal of money?

That’s not a glorious justification for either policy. But when the world economy makes people feel they aren’t in control, maybe proofs of this kind are needed for the majority to tolerate enough income inequality for some growth and enough tax for some social justice. And by suggesting that we are not, in fact, in charge, George Osborne’s Budget has let us off the hook: if we aren’t running this place, we can moan about pasties and not feel the slightest bit conflicted about it.

This post was originally published on thecentreground.com

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]

Latest

  • Comment Featured Naushabah Khan: We feel pride in our country so let’s use this to tackle Labour’s “Englishness problem”

    Naushabah Khan: We feel pride in our country so let’s use this to tackle Labour’s “Englishness problem”

    The reality of last year’s general election is that Labour’s failure to secure a victory in an England, suffering at the hands of UKIP, ultimately resulted in our defeat. As a parliamentary candidate in Rochester and Strood, for both the general election and by-election, caused by the defection of Mark Reckless to UKIP, I am all too aware of the public mood, that considered us out of touch with their lives and values. Both elections also revealed fascinating notions of nationalism, belonging and identity politics that as a […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Rachel Reeves: Queen’s Speech showed the typical Tory failure on pensions and infrastructure

    Rachel Reeves: Queen’s Speech showed the typical Tory failure on pensions and infrastructure

    Yesterday in Parliament we voted on the Government’s programme of legislation for the year ahead, as set out in the Queen’s Speech. The background to yesterday’s debate about its economic measures is the critical decision our country faces about its relationship with Europe. The evidence I have heard as a member of the Treasury Select Committee has left me more convinced than ever that a vote to leave would scupper any hopes and well-laid plans we might make for our […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn puts campaigns at heart of Labour staff reshuffle

    Corbyn puts campaigns at heart of Labour staff reshuffle

    Jeremy Corbyn has carried out a shake-up of the way the Labour Party operates with a review of the party’s internal structure and a reshuffle of his backroom staff. As the leader approaches nine months in the job, Simon Fletcher, chief of staff, will move to a new role of Director of Campaigns and Planning. While some have seen this as readying the party for a possible post-referendum snap election, it is seen internally as filling a more long-term brief – covering areas such […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Featured News Corbyn and Miliband team up to warn of dangers of Brexit on climate change

    Corbyn and Miliband team up to warn of dangers of Brexit on climate change

    Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband will hit the campaign trail together today as they champion the leadership the EU has shown on tackling climate change – and warn that a vote to leave would put recent progress “at risk”. It is the first public appearance that former leader Miliband has made with his successor, and comes in a week in which rumours circulated that Corbyn was trying to coax him back into the Shadow Cabinet. During last year’s leadership contest, Corbyn praised Miliband’s […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Europe Featured Chuka Umunna: Don’t take the polls for granted – we must defeat every argument from the desperate Leave campaign

    Chuka Umunna: Don’t take the polls for granted – we must defeat every argument from the desperate Leave campaign

    “Take Control” – that is the slogan of the faltering Vote Leave campaign.  I say “faltering” because they are by no means beaten. Any Labour supporter lulled by the current polls into thinking the Remain camp is on course to win need only cast their minds back to 10pm on Thursday 7 May 2015 – then, after a string of polls suggesting we were on the cusp of winning the last general election, we suffered a body blow and found […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit