Guido is in Hong Kong…

Hong Kong is nominally now under communist control, yet has a low income tax rate of 16%, a free market economy and limited government. This combined with its free trade port status makes it a reform model for the developing post-communist world.

It consistently tops the Reaganite Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. Judging by reports Vince Cable would love it here – at an off-the-record* post-budget briefing he gave to clients of pollsters ComRes, he lauded Nigel Lawson’s tax reforms and Ronald Reagan’s rolling back of big government. Vince was happily quoting Reagan’s dictum that the most chilling thing you can be told is “We’re from the government and we are here to help you.”

As George Osborne promises to stick to Gordon Brown’s tax and over-spend policies, maybe the most fertile political ground for the LibDems to stake out is to be liberal on economics rather than social democrat. The centre-right German Free Democrats and the Irish Progressive Democrats have been in government more often than not since the late 80s, despite being small liberal parties. Something to think about as we contemplate a hung parliament…

*Guido was not there, so not bound by the off-the-record convention.

UPDATE : Have just discovered that the Hong Kong finance minister has now abolished all taxes on wine and beer. How refreshingly civilised…

They have also introduced Green tax cuts! Financial Secretary John Tsang also announced last month tax incentives for “Greener” vehicles and a concessionary profits tax reduction for capital expenditure on “Greener” machinery and equipment. Corporate taxes were also reduced this year 1% to 16.5%. Pay attention Osborne at the back.

Friday Caption Contest

Question Time : Recess Monkey v Iain Dale

No not the main show, the extra bit afterwards on News 24. Iain Dale will be battling for the post match spin with Alex Hilton of Recess Monkey and LabourHome on Question Time Extra tonight (BBC News 24, 11.35pm).

You can email the show using this link to submit questions.

How Much Have You Been Clobbered for Car tax?

Buried in the small print are some hefty increases on car taxes. Not just big cars either – ordinary family cars are getting whacked as well. The Taxpayers Alliance have put it all online for some 4000 car models in a handily digestible downloadable format. Once again middle-class families bear the brunt of Brown’s unfunded spending commitments…

UPDATE : Curly points out that taxing a Nissan Micra will cost £40 more!

Budget 2008 : Cameron’s Putting Down of Ed Balls

By popular request, watch Blinky’s face:

So What Did You Think?

Scottish Presbyterians Hate Drinkers, Don’t They?

Quick, you have only until Sunday to get hammered before beer is up 4p a pint, wine 14p a bottle and spirits 55p. These Calvinistic bastards would tax smiling if they could…

MPs £5,000 Food Allowance Should be Taxed in the Budget

Guido first drew attention to the £400 food allowance given to MPs in 2005. Strictly speaking the allowance is £20 per diem. In reality this tax free allowance is worth some £33 to 40% tax rate payers. There is no real justification for it, it is equivalent an extra £5,000* or so a year on MP’s income.

There is no reason why this should not be abolished and a more honest and transparent picture of the compensation package of MPs given to the public. At the very least Alistair Darling should announce today that it will be taxed in the normal way as a benefit. Guido does not see why MPs should be treated differently from other self-employed business people who have to account for every penny to the revenue commissioners.

Some MPs claim to have been totally unaware of the allowance. Perhaps that is true. Guido would still like to know the details of who is claiming it.

*Guido is guesstimating, we do not know the details of the payment system and the authorities are resisting FoI requests.

Leaked Labour Party Document Shows Quality of FCO Analysis

The Foreign Secretary’s SpAd, Madlin Sadler,* put together a briefing on today’s European Union Bill Third Reading for Labour MPs. Brushing aside the fact that the taxpayer should not be paying Madlin Sadler to produce Labour Party briefings in breach of the Code for SpAds, it makes an extraordinary claim:

“The Tories are isolated in Europe. Their position is the biggest foreign policy failure since the 1930s.”

So the Tory plan to pull out of the EPP factional grouping arrangements is worse than Suez, Vietnam or the Iraq War? This is the view of the Miliband’s personal Special Adviser? Obviously Madlin has a deep sense of historical perspective…

You can download the full briefing here, Guido has digitally disguised the source of the leak because it has a warning on every page stating:

PLP briefings are the property of the Labour party. They are confidential and are for the use of registered members only. Any publishing or dissemination of PLP political briefing is prohibited and may be unlawful.

With New Labour’s characteristic inability to distinguish between party and state they seem to fail to realise that a document produced by a civil servant, in office hours at the taxpayer’s expense should by rights not be the property of the Labour Party. So sue Guido…

*Madlin is the daughter of Blairite MP Barry Sheerman. Another no doubt meritocratic appointment from the people’s party.

UPDATE : Guido accepts that there is a loophole provision in the Code permitting SpAds to produce briefings for MPs on government policy. This is not a briefing on government policy, it is a crib sheet on Tory policy and positions intended to be used to attack the Conservative position in media interviews and in the chamber. This breaches the spirit and the letter of the Code. There is in any case no way a taxpayer funded document produced by civil servants can become the exclusive property of the PLP. These type of briefing documents should be produced by Labour HQ at their own expense, not the taxpayers expense. If the PLP would care to test this proposition in court Guido is more than ready.

Lobby Lushes Get Blanko on The Taxpayer Too!

Is it any wonder that Guido’s four year campaign against politicians with their snouts in the trough got until recently so little traction in the media? Because the Lobby itself is full of expense fiddling drunks who rarely pay for their own drinks. The Billy Blanko parody of a Lobby hack is based on a composite of a few well known hacks. Guido has remarked on the drunken laziness of the Lobby many times but it is really a private affair between them and their Big Media shareholders. The BBC is different since law abiding television owners have no choice and are forced to pay for their output on pain of jailing. So Guido is keen to FoI what Nick Robinson drinks at the telly taxpayers expense…

Here is the news you won’t read in the papers or hear from broadcast by our fearless Lobby lushes:-

The total subsidy paid by the taxpayer to the press gallery bar and restaurant last year was £201,100. They drink at the taxpayers expense to the tune of a £1,000 every working day. They really are taking the piss getting pissed at the public’s expense.

Economic Incoherence

The Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Philip Hammond, gave an off-camera briefing ahead of the Budget yesterday lunchtime. Not quite sure how this squares with Dave’s commitment to the New Politics of openness and transparency or his boss George Osborne’sopen source politics 2.0 which he said would see a Tory government “become more accountable, more transparent and more accessible – and so bridge the growing gap between government and governed.” Having an off camera briefing in the Lobby room seems less than transparent and rather inaccessible to the governed.

Perhaps he has good reason to explain Tory economic policy out of sight, being too timid to put the case for tax relief for the struggling middle classes and reducing state over-spending. The Tories basically accept that because of the dire fiscal position Chancellor Osborne will stick with Gordon Brown’s tax and spending plans. As we tip towards worldwide recession and a global financial crisis the Tories are advocating “tax hikes on alcopops!” and the LibDems “tax cuts for smoothies!” Pathetically unambitious.

Guess Who

Q. Which party appoints a double-barreled, privately educated, graduate of Oxford and Stanford, ex-McKinsey turned City grandee and co-author of The New Capitalists as chief?
A. David Pitt-Watson of City fund managers Hermes is the new general secretary of the Labour Party.

He also gave £2,500 to Gordon’s leadership non-campaign.

UPDATE : If he has been brought in to clean-up Labour’s finances post the Abrahams scandal this will be tricky. Chris Grayling points out that he was a secret just-below-the-£1000 reporting threshold donor of £990 to Wendy Alexander’s campaign. He was with Peter Watt, the disgraced former Secretary-General of the Labour Party, director of a fund which has donated £110,000 to the Labour Party and a leading figure in an unincorporated association (LFIG) which has given hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Labour Party without revealing the original sources of funds – just like the Tory supporting Midlands Industrial Council. Does that fill you full of confidence that Gordon really means to be more transparent and straight about political funding?

The Chancellor’s Unfunded Spending Hikes

Back in 2005 Gordon boasted in his budget of “economic growth for the 50th consecutive quarter” in 2006. The next year he did not subsequently boast of 54 consecutive after Guido pointed out that he was taking credit for the five years of growth under the Tories following White Wednesday in 1992.

The point of Guido giving this background is to highlight that during all this long unbroken period of economic growth, Gordon failed to pay down the government debt – a truly prudent Chancellor would have done it at some strong point in the economic cycle. He did however forecast the budget surplus this year to be of some £9 billion, in fact the budget will probably be in deficit £9 billion. As Michael Fallon points out, despite many predictions to the contrary, the budget has never been in surplus* under this government. Gordon’s imprudence over the last 5 years alone has led to £69 billion in unplanned and unfunded spending hikes. The public sector has been bloated by a governing Labour party beholden to public sector unions for funding.

Who pays for this unfunded spending? Middle class taxpayers of course. The interest on the government’s ballooning debts consumes an ever increasing share of tax revenues. The nationalisation of Northern Rock further smashed the golden rule by £110 billion. We are now heading for G.F.T.** in a weakened fiscal position compared to other major economies. Alastair’s response? The word from the Treasury is that they plan to fiddle the statistics so that the golden rule will magically become unbroken. An illusion that will fool no-one.

Remember this when the new Chancellor talks about budgetary control or prudence in his budget speech. Treat any promises of future surpluses as a bad joke. Any “Green” tax hikes should be seen as what they really are, an excuse to tax the middle classes even more. The truth is Labour’s out of control unfunded over-spending hikes have added to Britain’s economic woes.

The budget should:

  • Focus on a growth-package to boost real incomes based on reducing the tax burden for those on low and middle incomes.
  • A boost for small businesses with reductions in corporation tax to Irish levels (12.5%).
  • A civil service recruitment freeze. We don’t need any more bureaucrats.

Instead we will probably get higher consumer taxes to pay for higher government spending.

*As pointed out in the comments, this is apart from the extraordinary 2001 windfall from the 3G bandwith auction bonanza. A one time bonus never to be repeated.

**Global Financial Turbulence in the vernacular of the Treasury.

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Unfunded Tax Cuts v Unfunded Spending Commitments

Yvette Cooper is spinning to all and sundry that the Tories have made £10 billion in unfunded tax reduction promises without “balancing” tax increases. She is briefing that reducing corporation tax to 27% will reduce taxes by £1.75 billion, £3.2 billion will stay in people’s pockets after the introduction of a transferable tax allowance, £3 billion will not be taxed from those getting working tax credit, £2 billion from the abolition of IHT for all but millionaires and £400 million lost to the Treasury and kept by first-time buyers after raising the stamp duty threshold.
Never mind that reducing corporation tax to 27% will still leave the rate 15% above high growth Ireland’s rate and that the extra billions in people’s pockets will be spent in the economy productively and have positive dynamic effects. Osborne has not balanced his budget plans is her central charge.

Guido wants to know about the Labour government’s unfunded spending commitments:These are the figures from the ONS, in 2003 Gordon made unfunded spending commitments of £36 billion, in 2004 £41 billion, in 2005 £38 billion, in 2006 £34 billion. This was during a time of strong economic performance when Gordon should have been paying down the national debt with budget surpluses. His prolific spending meant that he failed to balance the budget.

Last year he smashed the golden rule with £110 billion to be added to the PSBR after the nationalisation of Northern Rock plus the usual annual unfunded overspend of some £40 billion. To which we can add the off balance sheet fiddles like £725 billion of public sector pensions unfunded, not forgetting the £110 billion in payments due to companies in the next three decades under PFI and £18 billion of debt held by Network Rail and the figure is nearer £1.4 trillion, which is well over 100% of GDP. So the amount of unfunded spending commitments has now reached £1.4 trillion. Yvette Cooper is accusing George Osborne of proposing unfunded tax reductions which are small change in comparison.

Cowley Street Press Release : “Clegg Has Bottled It” On Europe

Guido just received this via email. The perfect end to a perfect week for Clegg. Well it is late on a Friday night…


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Quote of the Day

Philip Hammond at Treasury questions:

“I’m sorry to be boring.”

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