Ed & Yvette Profit Handsomely

So who did really well yesterday? Not small businessman, wacked with an 80% hike in capital gains tax when they sell their business at retirement. Alternatively if they work themselves to death dealing with regulatory red tape and hand the business on to their children, Brown and Darling will take, compared to the Tories, an extra £560,000* off the bereaved children. So much for rewarding enterprise.

If you own two homes you just got a handy reduction from 40% to 18% on capital gains. Is it a coincidence that almost all MPs own two homes? The constituency and Westminster home owners already benefit from a tax-free allowance worth £40,000 annually to pay their mortgages. Now they can sell the taxpayer funded second home and only pay the reduced capital gains – a 55% tax cut for MPs.

Mr and Mrs Balls are paid by the taxpayers quarter-of-a-million a year between them, so hard done by are they that they still claim tens of thousands extra in mortgage subsidy on top. Now with the new changes they will be able to sell that second home you paid for and they will pay only 18% tax on it. No wonder they are laughing…

UPDATE : A co-conspirator reminds Guido not to forget the Miliband boys successful efforts to award themselves an IHT tax cut. David Milband is today living in a £ 1.5 million ultra-fashionable-Primrose Hill townhouse at the centre of a complex inheritance-tax avoidance scheme. He shamelessly exploited a loophole which he used to reduce his death duty bills.

When his father Ralph died in 1994 aged 70, leaving a large estate, the Miliband boys agreed a ‘deed of variation’. The cunning move meant that 40% of the equity of the Primrose Hill home was transferred to Ed and David, who were each given a 20% share in the house neatly evading the tax bill.

*Could be an incorrect figure, see the debate in the comments. Guido is not an accountant.

An Apology to Readers

Below you can see that yesterday Guido suggested there had been some kind of policy U-turn on Death Taxes by the ventriloquist’s dummy that is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Guido even illustrated it with a big blue U-turn just to drive the point home.

As the sharper readers have pointed out, it was no such thing. In fact it was just essentially a re-presentation of, what Alastair Darling let slip this morning on the Today programme, was an already scheduled raising of the IHT threshold from £300,000 to £350,000. It additionally removed the necessity for spouses to visit a financial advisor for one aspect of estate planning. There was no new tax cut. It was a U-turn in rhetoric only.

Darling and Brown will still be rubbing their hands every time a middle-class, family-home-owner dies, the uninvited smiling guests at the funeral wake to present the bereaved with a tax bill.

Guido apologises for any confusion caused.

So How Many Schools and Hospitals Will Darling Cut?

Alastair Darling seems to have decided to split the difference between the status quo and the Tory proposals on inheritance tax. A big reversal from last year when he told The Times
“Inheritance tax brings in about £3 billion a year. If you get rid of it, it follows that some other tax has to go up or you have to cut some public spending, on health and education and so on…Ninety per cent of estates don’t pay it, it is paid by 6 per cent, and I don’t think this proposal really has much support across the political spectrum. The Tories and the Liberals have looked at it and backed off from it. It may make for a headline, but I don’t think it makes for a prudent and sensible tax and spend policy.”

Quite a big U-turn by Darling. It is as if he has vicariously brought George Osborne into the “government of all the talents”…

Snouts in Trough : “Do You Know Who I Am?”

So much for equality in the people’s palace. The political class really does have airs and graces:

Access to Services
Before the recess the Speaker approved the Administration Committee’s recommendation that Members should have priority access to services throughout the Commons part of the Parliamentary Estate.

With effect from today, staff and other users should be prepared to give way to Members when queuing for retail and catering services, the post office, travel office or when using other facilities such as lifts, photocopiers, telephone cubicles, etc.

When using parliamentary facilities, please bear in mind whether there is, or is likely to be, a heavy demand from Members and, if so, try to amend your own plans or schedule.

Peter Grant Peterkin
Serjeant at Arms

Sue Harrison
Director of Catering Services

Sith Cancel Scheduled Downing Street Meeting

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope is reporting that the Smith Institute has cancelled the meeting it was having at No. 11 Downing Street and moved it to a different central London location – the British Academy.

He says the Smith Institute refused to say where it originally planned to have the meeting – despite it stating clearly in the original invitation that it was being held “with the kind permission of the Chancellor of the Exchequer”.

Hope has picked up on the use of “Fair” by Gordon yesterday at his press conference in reference to tax, and the seminar’s “Fair Tax” title. Could they somehow be related?

Anti-sleaze campaigner Chris Grayling MP agrees; “It looks like an amazing coincidence that the Smith Institute is riding once again to the rescue in areas where Gordon Brown is having political problems.”

Yesterday the Labour Party Realisedthe New Boss is the Same as the Old Boss

What must have been depressing about yesterday, from the point of view of Labour MPs and activists, wasn’t that they lost the non-election, wasn’t that they had got their hopes up to crush Cameron only to see them dashed, it is the dawning collective self-realisation that nothing has changed with New Labour’s new leader.

Of course Brown’s enemies have always said that, but Labour activists wanted, even believed, that Gordon and his moral compass would change their party’s direction. When Oliver Letwin heckled Brown yesterday in the chamber for “pure spinning” the dejected government benches did not react. Usually there would be growling and baying back at him. Nothing. They knew it was true.

The Lobby, when Brown told the press conference that the polls were not the reason he had bottled it, in the words of Ben Brogan – a journalist well plugged into the Brownies – “no-one in the room believed him”.

The voters, uninterested as they are in the goings on in the Westminster village, were half expecting an election this month, only to see a battered Brown back off. The strong man looks weakened.

Labour activists themselves are starting to feel uncomfortable, the poll lead has melted, the gloss has come off their self-anointed leader and the nagging suspicion must be growing given the blatant bold-faced lying we saw yesterday, that nothing has changed besides the name on the door. He has even started doing that inane grin thing. The new boss is the same as the old boss…

LibDem Woes Surely Demand Tory Silence

Guido is surprised at those two Tory bloggers, Dizzy and Dale, rubbing their LibDem opponents noses into the polls. Surely the best thing for the Tories is to keep silent and hope Ming remains in situ?

Speaking of Tory bloggers, Ed Vaizey promised Iain Dale he would make a blog post every day if Iain publicised him. He broke his promise the same day. How unusual for a politician. He has also managed to cross everything on his blog out. Doh!

+++ EXCLUSIVE +++Tax Policy Emergency : “Call in the Smith Institute”

The non-political charity known as the Smith Institute, which is in no way a front for the Brownies, is having a Downing Street seminar on Wednesday next week.

The subject? “Fair Tax” – which is the political hot-issue of the moment for the Brownies. Is this what Gordon meant this morning when he said he wanted more time to “forensically” take apart Osborne’s proposals?

Judging by the copy of the invitation Guido has obtained, it looks like the Smith Institute is being tasked with developing a political response strategy for dealing with the non-domicile and inheritance tax proposals – Osborne has pushed Brown into uncomfortably defending tax-free billionaires. Something the Brownies would not have been expecting…

No wonder Smith Institute director Wilf Stevenson is inviting people to 11 Downing Street “with the kind permission of the Chancellor of the Exchequer”they need a new tax philosophy and fast.

UPDATE : The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies is distinctly unimpressed at the claim that the event is part of a jointly held seminar series. Bonnie Brimstone the events organiser at the IFS told Guido she had not heard anything about it, Robert Chote the Director of the IFS was more diplomatic, when Guido put it to him that Wilf’s invite said it was a joint seminar he demurred “I wouldn’t describe it that way”.

Rich and Mark’s Monday Morning View

Media First, House Second

Even Nick Robinson is taking the piss out of the Bottler-in-Chief. He is asking readers of his blog for suggestions as to what he should ask Gordon at today’s press conference. He also explains why old Brown pants would rather face the press pack than the opposition.
The truth is that he would far rather do this at a news conference than in the bear-pit of Parliament or a round with the media’s toughest interviewers. It isn’t that difficult when you get to choose the questions (allowing you to say “the lady at the back with the headscarf” if the going gets tough and you fancy a detour into the Middle East) and you disallow follow-ups and when you stand up in the state rooms of Downing Street looking prime ministerial.

Is that “toughest interviewers” jibe a dig at Marr? Apparently Robbo only found out about the Marr audience with Gordon second hand. Brave Brown is not coming to the House first today (has he forgotten about “the new politics”) he is going to face the Lobby first. Revealing isn’t it that he would rather face the likes of Andrew Marr than MPs. Incidentally, Robbo asking his blog readers for help? He’ll be offering them T-shirts next…

Tom Watson Pays Up After Losing Bet to David Cameron

The “Proppa Blogga” was out-blogged by Dave and by his own admission had to take his medicine. Tom Watson has paid up after losing his bet to David Cameron, he has (with a little prodding) now donated £100* to the Acorn Children’s Hospice Trust.

He hardly had any choice, but it gave Guido a chuckle to see him proved so vaingloriously and publicly wrong.

(Dizzy and Guido matched him with donations to Scope.)

Time To Pay Up Tom

Tom Watson MP, caught bang to rights – more details on www.PayUpTom.com.

Marr as Brown’s Journalist Poodle

Many of Marr’s journalist colleagues are irritated with him but some are laughing at him. The Brownies called in Marr yesterday for the usual exclusive self-declamatory love-in with Gordon that they book whenever he is in trouble. Remember when he got caught plotting the putsch against Blair with Tom Watson? He gave an interview to Marr who gave him the easiest of rides.

This time Gordon was in trouble for losing his bottle, so he called in Marr for another soft interview. Marr, at the end of the interview is sent outside 10 Downing Street, where he makes the announcement to the rest of the press that Brown has ruled out an early election. As if he was the Prime Minister’s Offical Spokesman…

UPDATE : Rich and Mark’s cartoon view is here.

Gordon Has Bottled It

The author of a book on Courage, the genius tactician, has bottled it. Gordon marched his troops to the top of the hill, and then he ran away.
The Brownies* will claim that they are “getting on with the job” but they have done nothing but electioneer, they are not governing, they are campaigning and spinning non-stop. They are more focused on good headlines than good governance.

Oh well, Guido has taken quite a few quid off those betting on an early election and that Tories to be the biggest party bet looks a lot better now.

Gordon’s judgement, to not simply squash the speculation, will be in question and his authority much reduced after this, Cameron called him on it without reservation. Dave didn’t flinch, Gordon just blinked…

*No longer will Guido use the macho sounding term Brownites, these are the Brownies. Compared to the Blairites, we really are dealing with the B-team.

UPDATED : Election Fever – Who Says When

Dateline : 5 October

The Telegraph’s Daniel Hannan has been in touch to point out that Peter Riddell first ruled out any prospect of a 2007 poll back in June, “that’s what first persuaded me it was likely.” He also says Janet Daley has done a similar flip.

Daniel himself has been saying for five months that there’ll be an election this year which he reckons means almost certainly there won’t be “as I’m the world’s worst forecaster”.

Dateline : 4 October
Over the last week or so Guido has been tracking the pundits predictions and will be updating this list (do add pundits names and predictions in the comments):

  • Peter Riddell – “it will almost certainly be on November 1 or 8.”*
  • Tim Montgomerie – is betting on an autumn election
  • Iain Dale – thought Gordon might call it during Tory conference
  • Nick Robinson tells us the preparations for an immediate election are real
  • Team Cameron – we don’t know but “we are on battle stations”.
  • Peter Riddell also ruled out a 2007 election last June.
  • Adam Boulton – told Guido he didn’t think this autumn, but you never know.
  • Mike Smithson – thinks Gordon will play it extra long, not before 2009.
  • Fraser Nelson – can’t see why Gordon would want to shorten his reign.
  • Benedict Brogan – not now, according to his Brownite sources.
  • Steve Richards suspects Dave will be able to claim next week that he stopped the mighty Mr Brown from calling a November election.
  • Michael White suspects not soon.
  • Dizzy Thinks not now.
  • Janet Daley wrote in July “I will stake my commentator’s credibility on the prediction that he will not do so, because I believe that his sense of his own political seriousness would make it inconceivable that he would cut and run before he has established his new dispensation and stamped his own objectives on government.”
Where is Guido sticking his neck? The Brownies are a secretive cabal yet they have signalled a supposed snap election intention. Why would they signal their true intentions to the enemy? Gordon will stretch out his term as long as he can…

Guido has been laying “before Dec 2007” on Betfair if you think Guido is wrong. It has been known…

*Peter Riddell has been been in touch to say he has been quoted out of context and he hasn’t a clue when the election is going to be.

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