Over at Cameron Kool-Aid Central – aka Conservative Home – the Kool-Aid drinkers are deeply flustered by Boris Johnson’s truly outrageous suggestion in today’s Telegraph that Gordon Brown’s 50p tax rate is a seriously bad idea.
The reason that they’re upset, of course, is because neither Dave nor George Osborne has said he has any immediate intention of undoing this economically illiterate idiocy if and when they gain office.
The milksop commentator who signs himself “whuh” is typical of the general tone:
Boris is just stirring up trouble.
He knows perfectly well that Cameron and Osborne agree completely on the economics, but are keeping 50p for political reasons.
Therefore he shouldn’t argue the economics, which everyone on this site will agree on. He should argue about the politics, if at all. Best of all is to stop trying to get in the way of us winning power in the general election.
Cameron supported Boris completely once he was chosen as nominee for mayor. It is rather caddish of Boris not to give the same support back.
Naturally I disagree with “whuh” (God, what an annoying name!), as I seem to do with most of the commenters at Cameron Kool-Aid Central. Sometimes, I think I despise this rag bag of “compassionate” or delusional conservative types even more than I despise left-liberals.
At least with someone like, say, Polly Toynbee you know she’s totally over: nothing she says or does for at least the next five years is going to have any effect on anyone, for everything she believes in has been utterly discredited. The Cameroon Kool-Aid drinkers, on the other hand, are capable of doing genuine damage to Britain’s economic and socio-political recovery. They urge caution, moderation, dissembling and political gamesmanship when what our broken country needs is clear thinking, honesty, and radical and immediate action.
Tim Montgomerie, as the Kool Aid drinkers all do, explains it in terms of strategy:
George Osborne and David Cameron are not prepared to make these arguments although I suspect they don’t fundamentally dissent. This side of the election they are not going to let Labour paint them as the friends of the very rich and – on a related front – bankers. Those of us who believe in simpler, lower taxes will have to be patient. Lower and simpler corporate taxation is likely to be a major feature of George Osborne’s first few budgets. Central to his vision of a hi-growth Britain is the creation of an environment that will make the UK an attractive headquarters for international business (see James Forsyth and Irwin Stelzer).
I love that bit about George Oborne’s “first few budgets.” Implicit in that statement – and Montgomerie does, after all, have a direct line to Cameron’s inner circle – is that for at least the first three years of an incoming Tory administration no attempt will be made to reduce the 50p upper band tax rate.
Now it’s not going to affect me, not on my income. But the thing about rich people is that the reason they got rich is by caring a lot about money. Suppose your income is a million a year and that whereas before you were being charged at 40 per cent, you now know that for the next three years at least – EVEN IF THE TORIES GET IN – you’ll be charged on it at 50 per cent. That difference amounts to roughly £300,000. More than enough, I’d suggest, to drive a chap to reconsider his tax regime.
Boris is right about this; Osborne and Cameron are wrong. It’s as a simple as that. The fact that they’re playing politics with this issue suggests to me not canniness but irresponsibility. Public respect for politicians has not been this low since the Rotten Boroughs of the 18th century; we are most of us quite heartily sick of the way our MPs are forever promising one thing then doing another, playing with gesture politics while refusing to the address the issues that really matter.
Yet here is the Conservative leadership blithely dissembling to us and treating us like idiots; and here is a decent sized rump of the Tory membership arguing that, yes, this is exactly the right thing to do because lying – and not just lying but conniving in policies such as the 50p tax rate which will actively harm our economy – are the only way the Tories are ever going to get back into power.
I disagree, and so it would seem does Boris. The sooner someone of similar ideological integrity takes over the Tory party, the sooner the damage of twelve years under New Labour can be undone.