When it emerged that Gordon Brown had made £1.4m since leaving office on the international speech circuit, his spinners were quick to point out claim that “not a single penny” had gone to Brown himself and instead it was all given to charity. But that’s not quite true.
The most recent set of abbreviated accounts for the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown (Ltd.) paint a different picture. Though they do not give a turnover, or how much actually went to charity, or how much was spent on “administration”, they do show that at least 20,934,300 pennies are being held by the Browns in cash. No income tax on that…
We now live in a country where caviar is untaxed and a hot pasty is. Guido isn’t sure that’s quite the fairness agenda the government were trying to push and the continued budget hammering is well deserved and will be ongoing. A 10% drop in the latest polls suggests that raising taxes instead of cutting spending isn’t popular. Who knew?
Guido suspects Cornwall is now off Dave’s Easter holiday destination list. His government has fiscally attacked their national dish…
And just when the government are getting it in the neck, walking Tory liability and Young Conservative Chairman Ben Howlett goes out of his way to help matters:
Just the image the Tories want right now…
Division 506 last night covered the 45p rate of incomes tax. A perfect time for Labour to cement their opposition to the cut after days of noise:
PROCEDURE (FUTURE TAXATION: RATES OF INCOME TAX)
That, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills, any Finance Bill of the present Session may contain the following provisions about income tax taking effect in a future year—
(a) provision that for the tax year 2013-14—
(i) the basic rate is 20%,
(ii) the higher rate is 40%, and
(iii) the additional rate is 45%, and
provision about other rates of income tax.
The House divided:
Ayes 319, Noes 22.
This is despite the promise made by Ed Balls last Thursday that: “There will be a vote next week, and we will vote against the 50p change.” Instead they were whipped into abstaining. Just two Labour MPs bothered to turn up to vote.
Balls claims there was no vote.
Hansard says otherwise…
As far as Guido can tell, the last time a Ministerial Statement was rushed on to the Friday agenda was when we bombed Libya. Given that the government has bombed quite enough already this week, unsurprisingly this rushed distraction job is not having the desired effect. It failed to push the Granny Tax off of the front pages and has gone down like the proverbial dodgy pint. Theresa May is not helping matters by constantly talking about “pre-loading” to describe drinking cheap alcohol at home before going out. It seems she alone has coined this phrase…
UPDATE: Yvette just gave the Home Secretary a good going over declaring that May “is being used as human shield and she should have said no”. The Shadow Home Secretary also confirmed that there have only been three statements on a Friday in last decade. Two were concerning war and the other Swine Flu.
Apparently not. With his Mirror job; New Statesman, Public Affairs News and House Magazine columns; BBC and ITV contributions; his weekly slot on Sky News as well being as host on LBC, Guido imagines that our Kev must do though. We should be told!
In a tacit admission that his current tax affairs leave more than a little to be desired, Ken has told our friends at LBC that if he’s elected Mayor he will start to pay income tax. Why hasn’t he been doing this already?
“If I’m elected Mayor on May 3rd, I will have no other income, so the taxman will take it straight out the salary at City Hall. We’ll just close the whole thing down.”
Millions of Londoners will continue to pay their income tax on May 3rd, as they already do, whether they are elected Mayor or not. Is Ken suggesting that in the likely case that he loses, that he will continue to dodge income tax? Every time Ken opens his mouth he makes this growing problem worse…
Given that this was only put down as a 10 Minute Rule Bill in January, Tory MP Ben Gummer’s tax-transparency campaign looks set to be one of the more successful backbench tales of recent times. Given that Labour only managed to find a technicality on which to oppose it when it was debated in the House, can we now presume that Balls will be backing it? The Staggers is already starting to moan. Will Balls manage to find a line on why he doesn’t want taxpayers knowing how the government spends their hard earned cash?
Taking time out from photoshopping a fake campaign bus, Ken’s team have been whipping up support for tonight’s “eve of campaign rally” near Waterloo Station. Supporters have been lured in on the promise of speeches from the likes of election-jonah Eddie Izzard, Tessa Jowell and lefty wunderkid Owen Jones. Whoops…
Presumably the Ken team spent at least thirty seconds checking out what these speakers have had to say about Ken before they were invited to share at platform, and presumably Owen Jones is going to be repeating tonight his call for Ken to release his tax returns as he suggested on Sky News last week. Or is he a Chic-Ken?
Incase you missed that Owen says:
“People should always pay their taxes, there’s absolutely no excuse whatsoever for tax loopholes, tax avoidance and that goes for Ken Livingstone, it goes for Boris Johnson and it goes for anyone else… I think all mayoral candidates, I think that would be perfectly good, perfectly positive, if they release their tax returns… I’ve made it clear there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever.”
Chic-Ken is still refusing to do that…
There was one tiny silver lining for Ken though – when pushed Owen says that despite being a hypocrite, the tax mess does not rule Ken out of the race.
Hopefully Owen will have honed that line in time for the rally tonight…
Ed had his own muddles at his speech today, but this from his deputy is quite something:
Guido could watch this one again and again.
Guido just asked the two Eds about Ken Livingstone’s tax status at their joint press conference. Calling it a “desperate Tory smear” it was telling that Miliband had to stress it was all legal and pointed up that Boris was running a negative campaign. He might want to check some of the material being put out by his own party…
Nobody is suggesting that Ken has done anything illegal, just that he is a massive hypocrite. Guido even suggested that both the candidates release their tax returns, but it seems Labour are sticking to the blind eye approach on this one. Whether the public will be so forgiving of hypocrisy remains to be seen.
Following up, Guido asked Miliband about cancelling an appearance at an NHS rally on Saturday, citing illness, yet being spotted in the chairman’s box at Hull vs Ipswich that afternoon. Apparently it goes without saying that Ed loves the NHS more than football. You could have fooled the people of Hull…
Labour’s rapid rebuttal re-education squad are having kittens with the latest lefty figure to tell the truth about Ken Livingstone. This morning we had the Political Editor of the New Statesman call Ken a hypocrite, and now Jonathan Roberts, a Labour Parliamentary candidate, sums up on Labour Uncut what any Labour member with a spine must be thinking:
“Your supporters will say I’m disloyal to the Labour Party, but don’t seem to mind you campaigning against our candidate in Tower Hamlets.Your supporters cheered you when you called tax avoiders “rich bastards”, but they don’t seem to mind the £50,000 you have allegedly avoided yourself. Your supporters criticise Boris Johnson as a “part time Mayor” for churning out a weekly article for the Telegraph, but they don’t seem to mind that you were an MP and a writer for the Independent during substantial parts of your own Mayoral tenure.
Your relentless cynicism and negativity is matched only by your hypocrisy. And I mind all three.
It bothers me that people think you are the last bastion of Labourness. It bothers me that you think you are the last bastion of Labourness. It bothers me that because I am a proud member of this party, I am expected to give up countless hours of my life to fight through the rain and cold to campaign for a man who has made so many anti-west comments that Iranian state television gave him his own TV show.”
The whole letter is well worth a read. If Ken’s own activist base is running for the hills, it’s going to be big ask for floating voters to return a hypocrite…
The self-appointed moral arbiter of the left, Mehdi Hasan, has broken cover in the Staggers and ruined Ken’s morning:
The big problem for Livingstone is that he has been a vocal supporter of UK Uncut, which campaigns against not just (illegal) tax evasion but also (legal) tax avoidance – by Vodafone, Topshop and other big companies. “These rich bastards just don’t get it,” Livingstone wrote in 2009. “No one should be allowed to vote in a British election, let alone sit in our parliament, unless they are paying their full share of tax.” The former London mayor called for everyone to “pay tax at the same rate on their earnings and all other income”.
The word “hypocrite” is being whispered – and not just by the usual suspects on the right.
The simple truth is this: you cannot run as the populist, banker-bashing candidate, the one who backs higher taxes on “rich bastards”, if you’re quietly channelling hundreds of thousands of pounds of your own earnings into a company jointly owned with your wife. You just can’t.
Hasan recommends that Ken gets his chequebook out and pops down to the HMRC with a camera crew. What are you afraid of Ken?
Ken wrote to the Prime Minister asking for a change in the law so that the Mayor of London could only have one job. The reply fell under the purview of Grant Shapps:
Thank you for your letter of 27 February 2012 to the Prime Minister; he has asked me to reply on his behalf as the Greater London Authority Act is the responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government.
I have considered your request carefully, but my department has no plans to amend legislation in this way.
I believe the electorate are best placed to make judgments on whether elected representatives are able to pursue other interests in their spare time. Indeed, it would be quite illiberal to pass laws restricting and regulating what individuals can do in their evenings and on weekends.
Indeed, the effect of your proposed regulations would have meant you were unable to serve as Mayor of London when you were first elected in 2000, since you were a Member of Parliament, had paid columns in The Independent and the Evening Standard, had a book contract with Victor Gollancz, and received five-figure sums from after-dinner speaking agencies. Subsequently, during the period you were Mayor, you had a continuing commercial interest in Localaction Ltd, receiving payments for television, radio and writing.
In this context, I view your new-found interest in this issue to be wholly inconsistent and a further argument against ill-thought-out regulation. Calling for regulation on ‘full-time mayors’ whilst running a part-time company is as consistent as calling for a clampdown on tax dodging whilst using a company to avoid paying income tax.
Obviously, outside interests must open and transparent – and the Coalition Government has taken steps through the Localism Act 2011 and the new local government Transparency Code to entrench such transparency in law. I would note that the Greater London Authority has been at the forefront of promoting the transparency agenda in the last four years, such as being the first local government body to start publishing its spending online.
Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Minister of State for Housing and Local Government
Well Guido laughed…
What becomes of disgraced coalition cabinet members after they are forced to resign? Well if this morning is anything to go by it seems they perform a pincer movement on George Osborne, calling for tax cuts.
If Huhne weighed in it would be a full house…
While there is an irony about Fox complaining it is too hard to sack people, he makes some good points in the FT:
The budget must confidently assert that capitalism works. But it doesn’t work if failure is rewarded as if it was success. …individual risk and effort is not rewarded when the UK government share of GDP has risen from 38 per cent in 1999 to 51 per cent in 2011, the effective top rate of tax is over 50 per cent, and CPI inflation for the last five years has averaged 3.5 per cent.To restore Britain’s competitiveness we must begin by deregulating the labour market. Political objections must be overridden.
In the Guardian, David Laws follows up Monday’s Newsnight outing with a welcome call to speed up taking the poorest out of tax. He wants to put up taxes though to fund it. Hmm…
A cynical person might think this must be coordinated, but Guido isn’t so sure. There’s no doubt that Laws’ interventions are sanctioned by his leader, though Guido doubts the same can be said be said for Fox. Steve Hilton will like it, but No.11 sources seem rather relaxed about the whole affair this morning…
A lot of chaff is being thrown up about the £10,000 tax threshold hike being pushed by Clegg this morning. Matthew Sinclair over at the Taxpayers’ Alliance has sent this chart proving the point Guido has been making all day. Those on low earnings benefit proportionately the most.
Those on lower earnings, e.g. the second decile (£10,853 according to ONS data) will see their post-tax earnings rise by 4.7%, those in the highest decile will see their post tax earnings rise by just 1.1%. Now some policy wonks on the left complain that middle income earners will see their post tax income rise by some 2% and that this is “a waste of money”. The squeezed middle-classes need some help as well, this is a good thing, not a flaw. The hike shouldn’t be paid for by once again shifting the higher rate threshold either. The coalition parties should stop piling on the pressure on the very demographic that voted them into office to cut taxes…
Ben Gummer’s tax transparency 10 Minute Rule Bill was just passed in the House and will come back for a second reading in March. Chris Bryant stood up to oppose it on the grounds that “there are better things we could be doing”, and raised various technicalities, but to no avail. It makes you wonder what he doesn’t want the voters to know? The UK is a step closer having an itemised breakdown of how our money is spent.
The fact that polling shows that 69% of voters support the benefit cap, leaves Guido wondering about the other 31%. If taxpayers knew how much they were personally contributing to these handouts, you would imagine that 31% figure would be a lot lower. Enter backbench Tory MP Ben Gummer, whose plan to print a break down of taxes on a statement sent to every taxpayer, every year, has got a lot of attention this morning. The Sun are liking it and the Telegraph claim:
“If you were to discover, for instance, that £4,000 of the £10,000 you have paid in tax and NICs for the year went on welfare, it might put the argument over capping benefits into a different context.”
A sample PDF of the document is here and apparently the Treasury are listening. There is a 10 Minute Rule Bill issue tomorrow, and Guido is scratching his head to see how the Labour can justifiably oppose the idea. Any additional cost would be minimal given that statements, minus the breakdown, are already sent out. Hard to argue that people should be kept in the dark about their own money…
Regressive taxes aren’t just about forcing up the price of supermarket booze, it was putting up VAT – a mistake that boosted inflation which was already above target and hit consumer spending when it was already weak. Unquestionably that was a regressive tax. Even the usually austerity friendly IMF cautioned against the VAT hike.
The squeezed middle aren’t spared either. Air Passenger Duty means that a family of four flying to America for their annual holiday can pay up to £587 in taxes. The Fawkes family fly back and forth to Ireland regularly spending more on air taxes than on air tickets. UK subjects pay more in air taxes than all the rest of the EU’s citizens – combined. It won’t bother the Chancellor on his £10,000 skiing holiday weeks, but those of us in the private sector, not on benefits, reckon he could do more to cut spending and the tax burden. It is called a growth strategy…