Ed’s Mansion Tax speech got “cut through” – because the press are still talking about it

February 19, 2013 8:22 am

One of the big problems that Miliband and his team have wrestled with in recent months is getting “cut through”. Too many speeches made by the Labour leader have been released into the wild only to disappear from the public consciousness as soon as Miliband left his central London podium.

In large part that’s because there were too many interventions – or at least too many with too little in them. Ed’s team are often keen to note that Miliband is an “ideas politician” which the more cruel amongst the commentariat might say is a poor alternative to being a “policies politician”. The vast majority of the public would prefer a strategy to improve their living standards to a speech analysing how they are squeezed. Similarly his speeches on an idea of nationhood and identity would have livened up a lecture hall – but the public would prefer answers on immigration, housing and employment.

That’s why Miliband’s speech in Bedford last week was a success, and why – rarely for one of Ed’s interventions – the papers are still talking about it. This morning columns in the Mirror and the Times are devoted the issues it raised. Yesterday Boris Johnson rattled off a poorly informed rant about it. The same has been the case for the past five days.

The next stage of course is to roll out a series of policies across a range of areas – perhaps along the lines of those Jon Cruddas suggested would be worked on by July – with the aim of overturning the Tory lead on the economy. More importantly than that, Labour needs to build on the 10p tax announcement, move beyond “too far too fast” and set out a positive alternative for what Britain – and the British economy – would look like under a Labour government.

The Labour Party was right on Osborne’s growth failure. Now – crucially – we need to be right on the recovery. If we do that, Ed Miliband can get used to stories that get cut through in the media and with the public. If we don’t, the party can get used to opposition.

But for now, lets celebrate that a Miliband speech given outside of conference season is still getting attention, and serious thought, once the press have filtered out of the room and the podium has been packed away. It might mean that he’s being taken seriously as a potential future Prime Minister, at last.

  • John Reid

    Maybe theyr’e talking about it still as it’s so daft, Andy Burnham had a much better idea in his manifesto for leader,

  • AlanGiles

    “Too many speeches made by the Labour leader have been released into the wild only to disappear from the public consciousness as soon as Miliband left his central London podium”
    In many ways that is a blessing for you. Some of his speeches are naive and facile in the extreme and seem somewhat contrived, like the “Greggs photo” – (who can ever forget his relaunch of “I’m Backing Britain” on Radio 4 in January 2012?).

    As for the mansion tax one, no doubt thte lack of comment, apart from a couple of newspaper articles, is because the public have a feeling they heard it somewhere else before- three years ago by another party.

    • aracataca

      Hang on a second. You have eulogised the merits of the Green Party countless times on here who arguably have the most facile and naive policy of all-namely limiting the incomes of UK individuals to £200K. Nice idea but how the hell would that be enforced?

      NB. This was not their policy while in government in the Irish Republic (2007-2011). For an account of their policy then see below:

      http://www.redpepper.org.uk/why-i-resigned-from-the-green-party/

      • John Ruddy

        Practicalities rarely come into it, unless it is to deride Ed or Labour about something that might not be practical.

      • John Ruddy

        Practicalities rarely come into it, unless it is to deride Ed or Labour about something that might not be practical.

      • John Ruddy

        Practicalities rarely come into it, unless it is to deride Ed or Labour about something that might not be practical.

        • aracataca

          He’s now getting plaudits from right wing contributors on here. The Mansion Tax is a progressive measure. His critique of it plays straight into their hands.

      • AlanGiles

        I have several times said that this policy (the £200k limit) is inpractical and unworkable.

        I have said in terms on many occassiobns there are several Green party policies I don’t agree with.

        Unlike some people I don’t feel I have to swallow every bit of propaganda a party comes out with and try to pretend to believe in it. Or with it.

        But back to Labour 2012 and Miliband: a lot of what they come out with I (especially “1N” )is just as impossible as a 200K pay limit. Some speakers including EM don’t sound very convincing – as though they know they are just uttering platitudes.

        It would be more to the credit of Labour and their supporters if they urged caution, instead of offering policies they know they cannot deliver on. It’s called pragmatism – and honesty

  • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

    Sorry to be an arse, but “cut through” being used as a noun seems to me a sign of the coming end of Western civilisation. I’m guessing it’s Westminster bubble/’beltway’ (urgh)/insider’s speak originating from some awful overpaid political ‘guru’ in America. Whatever, it is horrible. Rant over.

    • Daniel Speight

      Well said. Let’s hang all the spads and wonks tomorrow.

      • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

        Hanging all the spads and wonks may solve the problem, but it would probably be a bit of an overreaction.

        • postageincluded

          Come 2015 every vote will count, even hanging spads.

        • postageincluded

          Come 2015 every vote will count, even hanging spads.

          • Monkey_Bach

            “… hanging spads…”

            Perhaps the only blood sport that I could approve of. Eeek.

  • ButcombeMan

    Well yes, Ed got a little publicity but off the back of the LibDem concept. Quite sad really, has he no ideas of his own?

    The whole idea is silly and unworkable though, as is the linlking to a 10p tax rare.

    Far more sense -if funds are available – to take the low paid out of tax altogether. Why come up with unworkable schemes for a tax on larger houses, that would require an army of highly paid (and pensioned) inspectors, mass intrusion. and lots of challenge. What is the point of that?

    This is just ridiculous. Tax should be simple.

  • John H Melbourne

    What on Earth does ‘getting “cut through”’ mean? Mr Feguson doesn’t want Mr Milliband to be slashed to pieces by somebody, or even murdered, does he?

  • postageincluded

    The beauty of this proposal is that it is very difficult for the Coaltition as a whole to attack, and politically poisonous for them to steal. It sits well under the “one Nation” heading. It’s also unlikely to cause an argument between Labour factions. That it’s reasonable as policy is a bonus at this stage. Now is not the time for policy for its own sake.

    If this were a normal parliament then the election might be only a year away and yes, it would be time for solid policy announcements. It isn’t a normal parliament. The election is extremely unlikely to be any earlier than May 2015. That’s more than two years (including a whole year when the electorate is not thinking about elections at all). Two years for the Coalition to maul, spin, or steal away whatever Labour proposes. From July is quite early enough.

  • Monkey_Bach

    As Iain Duncan Smith continues to froth, rant, lie, and hover on the brink of mental breakdown, readying himself to emigrate permanently to the United States of Dementia, the Coalition’s package of rushed and repulsive “welfare reforms” are about to unravel big time. Labour MUST ready itself to step into the breach and offer the country humane solutions to the chaos about to break forth. It is in arenas such as this that Labour’s voice must roar if Miliband and the Labour Party are ever to be taken seriously.

    Faint heart never won fair lady.

    (Or a general election for a political party.)

    Eeek.

    • Alexwilliamz

      Perhaps a ‘fair work’ policy could be next up built upon getting people genuine work experience which they get paid for??

      • Monkey_Bach

        This kind of thing used to work well in the Scandinavian countries. It is costly in the first instance but often leads – or used to lead – to individuals securing jobs with high enough wages to enable them to be self-supporting, which ought to be the real goal. Eeek.

  • Hugh

    “Andy Burnham had an idea in his manifesto” would have done it.

  • David Parker

    It is true that Ed Miliband is not always the most incisive speaker but it is wrong to counterpose explanation and policy making as though the first is not necessary. Margaret Thatcher, whose style Ed Miliband apparently admires, was adept at picking up on popular sentiment, harnessing it to her view of what was wrong with the world and making policies on that basis. The Labour leadership should harness the almost universal belief that ‘we are not all in this together’ to an explanation of the present crisis that debunks the myth that it was all Labour’s fault and exposes the deliberate attempt to resolve it at the expense of the people. The deeper the understanding of what the Tories are about the more solid will be the basis for a set of alternative policies which command public assent. Without such understanding the task of the next Labour government will be all the more difficult.

  • Dave Postles

    Your name is Mark Steel and I claim my £5.

  • aracataca

    Why come up with unworkable schemes for a tax on larger houses, that would require an army of highly paid (and pensioned) inspectors, mass intrusion. and lots of challenge. What is the point of that?

    The point is it redistributes wealth.
    BTW It’s OK for highly paid and pensioned inspectors to ‘intrude’ on those on benefits to see if they’ve got a spare room in the house though isn’t it? (Re:Bedroom Tax).

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      Your point is that you think it redistributes wealth, but would you change your mind if nothing but ten minutes with a spreadsheet and some data, and a little critical thinking could convince you that it does not do any such thing?.

      The base data is downloadable from http://www.cps.org.uk/publications/reports/taxing-mansions-the-taxation-of-high-value-residential-property/ . The raw facts are 50,000 likely properties to raise £1 billion. After that it is only a matter of division into 25,000,000 taxpayers, and establishing the width of the resulting 10p band.

      The criteria set by Ed for implementation – extra costs first offset against the raised £1 billion, and the 10p band only being as wide as the remaining money raised, would see the 10 p band be no more than £400 wide, and more likely £160 wide after removing the costs of collection. The net gain to the ordinary rate tax payers being in the range of a maximum £3.33 down to a probable £1.33 a month. That takes no account of the costs of administering this in the millions of PAYE employers around the country, all of whom pay a little less corporation tax as a result (and that is likely to see this policy being a net drain on Government revenues).

      So the wealth is not redistributed in any meaningful way, but rather consumed by bureaucracy. That is not the same, but it does appear to be the official Labour policy to do just that.

      • ButcombeMan

        Jaime
        An excellent post. I hope Milliband reads it. His plans are so l;unatic, they would be worthy of Brown himself.

      • aracataca

        Anyone who gives this comment more than 2 seconds attention please note that the data provided comes from a report by the CPS – a completely unbiased body founded by those highly neutral and independent thinkers…………. er Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph.
        Give us a break JT. If you are going to provide actual data can you at least make some kind of attempt to ensure that it comes from a vaguely independent source?

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          The same data, from the Land Registry, which is an official source, as the Treasury use. As the CPS acknowledge. Or did you not get that far in the report?

          Try to get the CPS out of your head. The Land Registry. The people who have the buying and selling records.

          I don’t care who reports the data, so long as they do it accurately.

          Anyway, are you following the Postles school of putting your hands over your ears if some inconvenient, but incontrovertible data, appears? Remember, the Land Registry, an independent source which has official control over the actual records. And so, 50,000 homes liable. You don’t have any data at all to support your position, merely a “la, la la, not listening, tory bastards, Thatcher” shouting approach, which is nothing very grown up at all, but which characterises most of the stupid left, as opposed to the intelligent left. You have not tried to engage with the substance of the issue. You don’t appear to have read the report, or noted the sources of the data. If you choose not to do that, it is your wish, but don’t expect anyone apart from complete tribalists to give your wilfully un-read and completely un-evidenced opinion any credence.

          So, as with the Postles, do you have any valid opinion on the actual data presented? Or would you merely like to have an attack on the presenter of the data?

          • aracataca

            The CPS is a mouthpiece of the Tory party. This is a CPS report. The Tory party is against the Mansion Tax for reasons we all know about. Therefore the report is wholly biased.

          • Dave Postles

            ‘The Postles’ here. Is there any reason for suspecting that the 50k is an under-enumeration? The values from the Central Land Registry will refer to retrospective data at last transfer, presumably, which will (a) omit many that have not been transferred in recent years and (b) not reflect current values of those which are registered. Some (perhaps uninformed, but who knows?) estimates suggest more than 70k at current values. Perhaps we should revisit how the CPS arrived at that figure.

          • Dave Postles

            In fact, revisiting the report, I see that the number is actually given as 74k at p. 3.

    • ButcombeMan

      It will not redistribute wealth, if that is the simple aim there are far better, cheaper, more effective ways of doing it.

      As described and to create a 10 p tax band, it is an intellectual nonsense. It is a simple essential of the tax collecting art that the % of tax that is charged should be of something fixed independentlly of the tax Collector, Ad Valorem is the technical term.

      The problem with this concept is that the value of houses is NOT fixed, until they are bought, sold or (temporarily fixed) when rented.

      A £2 million figure ascribes a spurious precision to house values. It creates lots of room, too much room, for debate.

      In tax collecting, that is the death of efficiency.

      The whole concept is ill thought through. and half baked, no wonder we are already seeing signs of retraction, it will not be in the manifesto.

      Stamp duty is now fairly efficient but could be smoothed as the non smoothing adversely affects the functioning of the market. Stamp duty on higher end properties could be increased even more. This proposal is ridiculous.

  • rekrab

    Hmmm! a counter balance on the bedroom tax and a wider question on local taxation, yeah for sure wealth tax has dropped and the complex means has been a bridge to far for central government.Old monies doesn’t need dipped and cleansed by restrictions, directly tax the interests of the affluent by at least an additional 15% on earnings savings and holdings at the local office.

  • rekrab

    It’s worth taking a look at landlords and the private sector renting agenda, landlords who accrue several homes should be paying additional tax on their outlay, say an annual fee of 12% on each property.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      What might that do to the rent charged to the tenant, Derek? It would probably be the quickest way of extracting another £50 per week from the tenant, to cover the landlord’s extra £40 per week of cost, plus £10 administration and paperwork charge for “good measure”.

      And passing a law forbidding landlords from passing on this charge fails on principle – why should a government forbid a legitimate business to make a profit, and poor in practice, as the landlords will find some other excuse to pass it on. Charges for conducting an annual electricity safety test, or something similar.

      Not that there is nothing to be done. A large programme of social housing building acts as a good stimulus, reduces the pressure on supply and so drives down rents, and makes this buy to let “business” less attractive.

      • rekrab

        Or we reach the point of “snap” once again, where the basic need of housing is a cost to far. I was hoping there would be a need, of reversing the yield landlords recoup.Profit can still be made when the house is sold on.

        • Alexwilliamz

          he’s right. Forced nationalisation of private rental property is the only sensible solution.

          :cough:

          • rekrab

            Alex, great quote, (nationalisation) it really is beyond the silly season when the disparities in renting and council tax mean, that a couple who both work and take home over £60,000 per ann pay the same council tax as a neighbour living in the same type of home who takes home £26,000 per ann and pay’s more in rent than the richer couple pay in mortgage payments.

        • Dave Postles

          IFS report on land value taxes: conclusion:

          ‘The taxation of property in the UK is currently something of a mess. As we have seen when considering the practicalities involved in implementing an ideal system, up to a point this is understandable. But it remains both desirable and feasible to clear up much of the mess. Our conclusions can be summarized thus:
          • There is a strong case for introducing a land value tax. In the foreseeable future, this is likely to mean focusing on finding ways to replace the economically damaging business rates system with a land value tax.
          • Council tax should be reformed to relate it more closely to actual property values—levied as a proportion of up-to-date values with no cap and no discount for unoccupied or single-occupancy properties. We have called this a housing services tax to reflect its underlying economic rationale as a tax on housing consumption to substitute for VAT.
          • Taxation of rented housing should be reformed by offering landlords an allowance against the normal return to their investment (and by aligning capital gains tax rates with income tax rates, as discussed in Chapter 14). In principle, it would also make sense to move towards a rate-of-return allowance basis for the taxation of owner-occupied housing, but this may prove extremely difficult in practice.

          Finally, stamp duty land tax should be abolished and the revenue replaced by part of the housing services tax (for domestic property) and land value tax (for business property).
          This is a radical set of proposals, and the changes would need to be phased in carefully. But this is also an area where the current practice is a long way from an economically rational and efficient system. Stamp duty and business rates defy the most basic of economic principles by taxing transactions and produced inputs respectively. Income tax and capital gains tax create a significant bias against the rental market in favour of owner-occupation. Meanwhile, council tax is indefensibly regressive and, thanks to spineless government refusal to undertake a revaluation, we find ourselves in the absurd position that tax bills are still based on relative property prices in 1991. Over time, this arrangement will come to be seen as more and more
          untenable. At some point, some government will have to grasp the challenge of making the case for intelligent reform.

          • rekrab

            Yeah, at some point there has got to be a recognition that a home is a basic need and not some failed jagged knife point, that only serves the owner.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            You take issue with me for linking to the CPS, and several comments later yourself quote extensively the IFS? Both seen as adherents for some polarised opinion, but the former known for adherence to “evidence-based” research, the latter mostly not and for being more inclined to the “tribal shout louder and ignore the inconvenient facts” tendency. I’m a bit disappointed, with your acknowledged intellect.

          • Hugh

            The IFS is widely acknowledged to be economics-led. Even when it’s wrong I’ve never seen it described by any serious journalist as “tribal”. I think you might be confusing it with something else.

          • Hugh

            The IFS is widely acknowledged to be economics-led. Even when it’s wrong I’ve never seen it described by any serious journalist as “tribal”. I think you might be confusing it with something else.

            As evidence, I’d submit the fact that the same review of the tax system Dave quotes from also notes: “The benefit system is unnecessarily complex, is not integrated, and reduces incentives to work and earn much more than is necessary. The government’s proposals for a Universal Credit area a welcome step in the right direction.”

          • Alexwilliamz

            Although despite what they would tell you there are presuppositions required before you can apply economics, which ones does the IFS hold?

          • Hugh

            Of course there are, but to describe it as tribally left wing when it’s the preferred reference for the likes of the Telegraph and Spectator, as much as the BBC and Guardian makes no sense. It is – so far as I can tell – generally acknowledged as about as close to an apolitical body as its possible to get, which is why its economic analysis carries fair weight. The CPS, which I rate, is, nevertheless, pretty solidly a centre-right think tank. Jaime’s assertion above is more or less the exact opposite of the truth.

          • Alexwilliamz

            fair enough.

          • Alexwilliamz

            fair enough.

          • Alexwilliamz

            Radical but an absolute necessity if we are going to ‘rebalance’ the economy.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    “But for now, lets celebrate that a Miliband speech given outside of conference season is still getting attention, and serious thought, once the press have filtered out of the room and the podium has been packed away. It might mean that he’s being taken seriously as a potential future Prime Minister, at last.”

    I can see there were other elements in the speech, because you reported it in full and I read it in full. But it does also seem true to observe that the only element being reported – in your words “cutting through” – some days after the event is the mansion tax and 10p rate linkage, and in my opinion, for all of the wrong reasons from Labour’s perspective. There is much justifiable mockery of what appears to be the worst (and still worse, the third one along) of the 3 parties’ various attempts to show how this is workable.

    For a start, the Lib Dems had the benefit of starting at £1 million, and with a lower starting rate. Cable can clearly do his arithmetic and knows how the Laffer curve works, but was silent on practical difficulties. The tories’ version last year was only positive in that it did say that there are great practical difficulties, even if they then ignored those observations and proceed with the idea by ignoring Laffer. Ed neither acknowledges Laffer, nor mentions the great practical difficulties. and he is “third out of the blocks”, when the whole concept is now widely mocked (apart from by people who can spell redistribution, but can’t think critically about how it actually works).

    I’m also not sure that if you want to portray Ed as a serious contender to be PM, that you should publish that photograph of him together with Ed Balls. Did you really want to show Ed at his “wonkiest”, and standing too close to that man who assisted so much in the destruction of our public finances, and publicly remembered for this role?

    • Dave Postles

      Well done, that’s two right-wing economic think-tanks that you’ve managed to invoke – the CPS and Laffer Associates.

    • Dave Postles

      So, you’ve invoked: (a) the Tory press; (b) the right-wing think-tank established by Joseph/Thatcher; and (c) the extremely right-wing economist who is the founding partner of Laffer Associates and who barely receives a mention in standard economics textbooks.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        I take it that you prefer to invoke ad hominem, rather than the actual arguments advanced? You probably won’t care to note that whatever the origin, the arguments made are based on mathematics;**** and science, measured assessment and logical deduction are owned by no political master, and yet also freely available to anyone to deploy. It would be nice to see someone of the left trying to do so.

        As a “sop”, and to show I mean this dispassionately, it would be nice to see the right also deploying the gentling influence of humanity in their social engineering. It would be wonderful if we could see in one party a nexus of tempered science and humanity that accepts that while there will be differences in both input and outcome because everyone is different, they should not be so stark.

        Do you have any opinion on what appear to be the facts? There are some uncomfortable realities associated with the policy Ed did advance, and so far no one at all of the left engaging with those realities, whether here on LL, or the man you link to earlier.

        *** I hope my use of the semi-colon works in that context. It is something I am unpractised at using, and you are a Professor of English.

        • Dave Postles

          None of the above. You invoke Laffer to reduce the impact. Even if there was widespread credence in Laffer, (and I doubt that there is) his point did not, as far as I’m aware, refer to LVT or fixed assets. IMOH, the proposal for a mansion tax is flawed only in so far as it is not part of a wider revaluation which redresses the regressive points of Council Tax, which is a travesty. You have no idea of the actual costs of introducing the mansion tax, but make suppositions. If the tax produces merely £1bn, it is worth introducing. I’ve never made any comment about associating it with a 10p income tax. Since Osborne is scraping around to pay down the deficit or for investment, there would seem to be much better options – not least, building social housing. Finally, you are wrong: I have never been a Professor of English, but a lowly contract research fellow in history in an organization which, to refer back to another of your own comments ad hominem, remained resolutely in the paradigm of Snow’s Two Cultures and was, of course, the original exemplar.

          • Dave Postles

            mea culpa: I meant reduce the deficit.

  • Paul J

    All the rightwing ranting has proven this idea’s a good’un.

  • FredChukkawakka

    Lets be realistic ‘mansion tax’ at best is a political ploy in order to get media attention. The reality is the cost to implement a ‘mansion tax’ would cost more than what it would generate in revenue.

    There are two better options. First option is creating more Council Tax property bands to handle homes over £2 million pounds. The other alternative is moving away from Council Tax to a property tax system. A property tax system addresses the issues that is not address by Council Tax. Under a property tax system residential renters do not pay the tax. It is paid by the property owner. This would mean either significantly lowering benefits for payment or ending Council Tax benefits. It also means the poorest, if they are not owning property, would not pay thereby giving them more disposable income.

    Another advantage, anyone owning more than one property would pay a higher rate on those not designated as their primary resident. This means discounts will not be given to someone who owned more than one property.

    Third advantage the tax is not based on the price of the property on a given date. Instead it is linked to the value of the property and anything that increases the value will lead to an increase in the amount of tax paid. This means more revenue for local councils and the more local councils strive to improve lives in the area the more property prices go up and the more money available for services.

    So when I hear ‘mansion tax’ I laugh and know there are better options available.

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