Coffee House

Why Ed Balls doesn’t care about criticisms of his tax plan

3 February 2014

12:00 PM

3 February 2014

12:00 PM

There were a million people who voted Labour in the 2005 general election but not in 2010, when the party fell from a 66 majority to 48 seats behind the Tories. Thanks to the Lib Dems’ spiteful rejection of boundary changes that would have helped their coalition partners, the 2015 poll is already rigged in Labour’s favour by about 30 seats, so the number of floaters who have to be won over to give Miliband and Balls a working majority is likely to be well down in six digits rather than seven. No doubt Labour’s pollsters know how many to the nearest thousand, and have them segmented and profiled to the last housing estate.

Not many are likely to be business leaders, wealth creators, tax economists,Today listeners or Spectator readers. But as one of the party’s gurus explained to me gleefully last week, those million-minus are the only people Ed Balls needs to talk to. He doesn’t give a toss what the rest of us think of him — being hated by true blues actually helps his mission. And he doesn’t have to come up with sensible, costed policies. He just has to reach out to the electoral slice — thinner than the iceberg lettuce in the national Big Mac — that has the power to put Labour back in Downing Street. Since this obviously can’t be done by talking about their record in power, and ‘the cost of living crisis’ is rapidly running out of road, he and the other Ed think the path to victory is to persuade their chosen audience that Tories, banks, energy companies and people who prosper by their own efforts are all part of an evil conspiracy to keep everyone else poor.


And that of course is the entire rationale behind his pledge to restore the 50p top rate of income tax. Pointless to debate whether the move would ‘bring the deficit down quicker’, because surely not even Balls himself believes it would. Pointless to shout — as Digby Jones and others have done — about discouraging inward investment and entrepreneurship, because he’s not listening. The whole issue of taxing incomes above what many experts regard as the revenue-maximising 40p top rate introduced by Nigel Lawson in 1988 has only ever been about low politics and tokenism.

When Alistair Darling announced, in November 2008, a 45p top rate on incomes above £150,000, to come into effect in April 2011, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said it would raise ‘approximately nothing’ and might even have a net negative impact. Four months later — with defeat ahead a racing certainty as Labour’s poll rating slumped to 29 per cent — Darling upped the rate to 50p and brought it forward to April 2010, barely six weeks before the general election.

It was a trick to embarrass the Tories in power, when they would naturally want to cut the rate again but could not do so without accusations of favouring the wealthy; the equivalent of leaving a different kind of floater when you think the bailiffs are about to call. How Balls must be laughing as we play his game by debating the 50p rate as though it’s a serious proposition to improve the nation’s finances: it’s really just a targeted tweet that says ‘vote for us and kick the filthy rich’.

GoveThis is an extract from Martin Vander Weyer’s column in this week’s magazine. Click here to read for free with a trial of The Spectator app for iPad and iPhone. You can also subscribe with a free trial on the Kindle Fire.

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Show comments
  • Eyesee

    He also knows the people who vote for him are idiots, so his policies can be as obviously stupid as he likes.

  • Matt

    What a load of prejudiced twaddle. A 53% top tax rate in the Netherlands and Denmark doesn’t seem to stop their entreprenurial success. They do business better than we do. This idea that is will lead to lower revenue, or not raise very much is right-wing propoganda of the kind Goebbals would be proud of. The last time they put it up to 50% it raised massive amounts and that’s a fact you right-wingers would rather ignore and dismiss as you usually do when the facts don’t suit your agenda.

  • HookesLaw

    This again points to why the only way to vote is Tory. Labour have been a disaster for this county since its inception. Only one word covers the policy of splitting the right wing vote. Criminal.

    • saffrin

      They’ve been fooling us with that line ever since I can remember.
      UKIP are coming Hooky. Face it, Cameron is a complete failure. If Labour win, take it out on the Tories for not kicking him in the street while they had the chance.
      Remember this, Cameron almost lost the unlosable 2010 General Election. Every time that fool opened his mouth pre-election, the Tories lost a few points.
      Here we are, three years later and still the Conservative party have learned NOTHING!!

      • Makroon

        Tosh. Cameron was extremely popular in 2009/2011.
        The election came just after the banking crash. At times of crisis, electorates cling to what they know. Cameron’s lead was up to 27%, but as soon as Brown “saved the world” (saved small savers deposits), amidst mass media approval, led by our friends at the “public service broadcaster”, the Conservative lead fell away to 7-9%. Another Labour stunt that nearly saved Brown’s bacon.

        • saffrin

          Cameron’s lead fell to next to nothing because the public began to realise he was little different from what went before.
          How else do you explain UKIP’s sudden rise in popularity if it isn’t for the fact there is little to no difference between Labour, Tory and LibDem?

    • Conway

      Frankly, I can’t see much difference between Cameron’s Tories and New Labour and I say that as an ex-Conservative voter. I do not see the Nuservatives as in any way right wing. As far as I am concerned, a vote for Cameron’s Tories is a vote for Labour. If Labour get in, that will be entirely down to Dave, who has driven away the people he needs – the core Conservative vote.

  • David B

    If this is the strategy it is little wonder politics is held in such low regard.

  • sarahsmith232

    51% of people in this country are taking out more than they’re putting in. They’re going to vote for the party that tells them that can continue, 50p, 40p, Labour could announce it’s going to be 72p for all they’re going to care.
    What are Labour going to do about all of their ‘sin’ taxes? Really hammering them on how much they’re going to put up tax on alcohol, flying, petrol, is there going to be a ‘fat’ tax? The Tories are going to have to start scaremongering on things like supermarket parking charges, speeding fines, council tax increases, a chocolate cake tax, tanning tax, skiing tax, playing the odd occasional game of rugby tax. Can’t the Daily Mail start putting about stories about them intending to tax pet ownership, or something. Perfectly plausible, i’d believe Labour would manage to find a way to say dog ownership has become detrimental to health of the nation so must be taxed.
    This is the Tories only out route, tell that missing million that they can kiss goodbye to their buy one, get one free on their Stella packs ’cause Labour will be taxing it out of existence, oh and along with their £60 return to Malaga, that will be quadrupled. Going to be many, many, many retirees ears pricking up if that starts getting put about.

    • Makroon

      You very badly underestimate our electorate.
      Actually, so does Cameron. Overall, the electorate can take the truth, and are pretty shrewd in seeing through political codswallop – from whatever party.

  • ButcombeMan

    The very great mistake Osborne made was not to cut the rate on his first day in Number 11.

    • @PhilKean1

      A bit hard to do when, not only did Dave aspire to be the Heir to Blair, and pledge to stick to Labour’s spending plans, but he was unsure about what level the top rate should be, too timid to attack Labour for raising it, and worried about the political implications of committing to return it to 40p.

  • @PhilKean1

    Exactly right.

    And a reminder to politically-aware and responsible voters that Labour are and will always be unfit for office.

    However, let us look at the reason why we are in danger of being inflicted with another dose of Labour’s deceitful maladministration.

    For David Cameron had a golden opportunity to stand his ground, to defend national Sovereignty and the British people’s democratic rights, to explain the benefits of Conservative policies, and undo Labour’s damage. And if he had done so, rather than selling us out to the EU and trying to turn his party into Britain’s 3rd Socialist force, he would now have the overwhelming backing of his backbench MPs, business and voters – and be on his way to forming a majority Government in 2015.

    But he has done none of it. As a result, even Labour haters like me regard Cameron’s removal as being in the national interest.
    And we deem it so because, thanks to Dave’s actions – and inaction – we see no difference between Labour and Cameron in the rate at which we are haemorrhaging Sovereignty to the EU and ceding ground to the malignant forces of Socialism.

    • Rainsboro

      What puzzles me is Cameron’s strategy. I’m not a Tory but his first priority when Labour were ousted should have been to impress upon everyone that the financial crisis was all Labour’s fault and impress it so deeply they’ be out of serious contention for fifteen years. The smart move would have been to impose savage, even unnecessary, cuts and say over and over ‘It’s all Labour’s fault’. Increasingly, I think Cameron’s only real objection to Labour was that they were in power and he wasn’t.

      • @PhilKean1

        With respect, even though I am all for cutting, I would prefer the sort of Government which did what is necessary, and for the right reasons.
        But if removing benefits from abusers and forcing them to get jobs is savage, then I am all for it.

        • HookesLaw

          Thousands of people have come off disability benefots as the govt have changed the rules. But do a check and see the politicised howling it gets.
          The govt deserve support but the fruit loops want to split the right wing vote and let Labour in.

          • saffrin

            How many immigrants has Cameron let in Hooky since his election winning lie he’d cut the numbers to the Tens of Thousands?
            Just how stupid do you think the people are Hooky to think we’d continue to fall for the LibLabCon lies?

            They are all in it together. UKIP IS the only alternative.

      • George_Arseborne

        He says that over and over or better still “mess left by Labour” . Rainsboro either your problem is understanding or the noise from the rains prevents your hearing well (recommends hearing aid anyway)… No one believes what the Heartless Tories say.

        My question is, why are the Tories afraid of Ed Balls? The spent relentlessly to kick him out in 2010 but the heavy weight Ball brushed them and won. Now they can not venture to oust the next Chequers Boss. Shame on you.

    • 2trueblue

      I agree that Cameron is not the best man, but there is no way that I will do anything that would allow Liebore in again. My grandchildren deserve better than actively assisting Balls, Millipede et al back to totally destroy the country totally. The LibDums have proven to be totally dishonest and self serving and have no place in the democratic arena. They prevented the country from making elections fair by equalising the size of constituencies. The LibDums cynically scuppered it. There is no way I will sit back and give it all away for a dislike of Cameron, when there are real and clearly bigger dangers than him.

      • @PhilKean1

        Don’t lose sight of the fact that the EU is by far a greater danger to your grandchildren’s future, even more than Labour.

        And even though Cameron knows, or he should know, that the British people will lose the power to choose which politicians make the laws they live by, and be forced to join the Euro – he is insistent that we stay in the EU at any cost.

        It is for this reason that I implore you to vote for the only party which advocates EU withdrawal, or that can pressure the 3 consensus parties to start acting in the national interest : UKIP

        • HookesLaw

          Don’t talk rubbish. It is garbage on so many levels that I don’t know where to start.
          Labour, Europhile labour are the biggest danger to this country and you want to spluit the right wing vote. Dumb and despicable.
          The EU is not going to go away and you are plain lying to those you wish to persuade by saying we would be any way significantly different if we were out. Being in the EEA would still mean being in the single market and part of free movement of labour and paying in to EU structural funds.
          Voting tory gives you a referendum. Voting UKIP gifts the country to a europhile economically illiterate Labour who would be delighted to put us in the Euro given half a chance..

          • saffrin

            Voting Tory splits the UKIP vote Hooky.

          • @PhilKean1

            No surprise, then, that someone who is so committed to Britain remaining in the EU should be fully supportive of Cameron’s renegotiation / referendum ploy.

            I mean, I would be in favour of a mechanism designed to trick the electorate if I was a fanatical pro-European.

            What it says is that your words on this subject are disingenuous and meaningless.
            Your allegiance to a political entity other than Britain is, in my opinion, as contemptible as it gets.

        • 2trueblue

          Kipping with any other than Tory will deliver those you do not wish to lie with. In fact you will be kipping with Liebore.

  • sfin

    If Ed Balls contained a shred of decency, as a man, let alone a politician, after the part he played in creating our financial position amidst a global economic crisis, he would have put his hand up, cried “mea culpa”, resigned his seat and devoted himself to good works, à la Profumo.

    Instead we are subjected to this grotesque individual promoting ‘more of the same’ economics and doing his utmost to get his grubby paws back on the levers of power. He is living proof that the highest paper credentials and politics as a profession do not a good politician make.

    No wonder the electorate are completely disillusioned.

    • 2trueblue

      It is even worse when we have to sit and listen/see Hodge, Vaz on all these committees pontificating about honesty and propriety. Given their records it just is not right.

      • sfin

        Hear! Hear! The fact that a spiv like Vaz has been chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee since 2007 and a member of the Privy Council since 2006 – is an affront to MY sense of decency, as well as too many other voters like yourself, in my view.

        Time to vote UKIP…

        • HookesLaw

          … And get a labour govt. Usual rubbish from someone who Farage probably wants to disown from his party now.

          • sfin

            I’m genuinely sorry to say this young man – but I have seen your standard of debate diminish from reasoned, to troll territory, in a short month.

            We know you love Cameron’s ‘conservatives’ but do please try to come up with rational arguments why you do so.

            Slating the opposition only shows your naked fear.

        • 2trueblue

          U KIP if you want to I am not Kipping with any of that lot. They will simply let any old lot in.

  • Nicholas chuzzlewit

    This sounds like a sensible and accurate analysis. Indeed, most sensible thinkers recognise Balls as a political thug with no experience beyond politics and the role he played on behalf of the single most catastrophic politician in British history, Gordon Brown. That said, whilst his motives are base and he has no interest whatsoever in reducing the structural deficit, it begs the question: why do Labour want to win the next election. Clearly, it is not to restore public finances to some semblance of acceptability nor is it to encourage the wealth generation needed to fund its myriad spending commitments. Indeed, Labour is positively anti-business and sees enterprise merely as a Milch cow on which it’s constituency can gorge and keep voting Labour. I was not easily convinced by the argument that Labour wants power for power’s sake but now I believe it to be incontrovertibly true. The packing of every Quango etc with its own placemen to act as a kind of second government in waiting, it’s opposition to every reform in the public services, it’s determination to entrench mediocrity and failure in health and education point to its narrow determination to pander to the 35% of the population it regards as it’s constituency and then cling to power at all costs.

    • HookesLaw

      I’m not sure he is a ‘political thug’ – he may be of course – but I think he is certainly a political big head. Unfortunately his head is full of rubbish.

    • Makroon

      Somehow, I doubt that.
      All of this nonsense is just calculated populism to grab power. Once there, they won’t do a Mitterand or Hollande, they’ll just ditch the lot without ceremony straight away, and start sucking up to the crony capitalists and bankers, just as they did before. They have no scruples and no “UKIP” on their left to keep them in line. Then the cancer eating away at the country’s vital organs will start over again with renewed vigour.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Whatever they do it will be an unmitigated disaster for Britain.

  • Slim Jim

    Of course he doesn’t care! He’s a lying, dissembling, two-faced politician whose only aim is to get back into power. He does look a bit like Ernst Rohm, doesn’t he? If he gets his stubby hands back on the levers of power, we’re doomed, just like the French. I wish Jeff Randal would interview him though…