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Labour is failing on tax avoidance

Tax free zoneThis week’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times makes it very clear that Labour is failing to get a clear anti-tax avoidance message across to the public. In answer to the question “In general, do you think it is acceptable or unacceptable to LEGALLY avoid paying tax?”, 62% of people (72% of Labour voters) think it is “unacceptable to legally avoid tax” versus 29% (20% of Labour voters) who think it’s acceptable. And yet only 50% of Labour voters and 21% of all voters think Labour is the party “would do the most to cut down on tax AVOIDANCE?”. 

Whilst it is true that the Government has attempted to talk the talk of tax avoidance, the reality is very far removed from the talk as their squalid deal with Switzerland, which Richard Murphy described perfectly:

The new UK – Switzerland tax deal is dire.

It lets tax evaders off the hook.

It permits and even seeks to to turn a blind eye to continued tax evasion through Swiss banks.

It offers lower tax rates to tax evaders than we have in the UK.

It explicitly supports banking secrecy.

Quite bizarrely it gives Swiss banks the right to assess and collect UK tax without any supervision as to whether they are doing so properly.

And it will bring in almost no money.

So why is Labour doing so badly? It’s not as if Ed Miliband hasn’t been talking about it. Could it be that it is because New Labour in government was just as bad at dealing with it as the Tories are, and didn’t even try to talk the talk? When Peter Mandelson said he was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich“, he did at least add “as long as they pay their taxes” but that was about as far as it got. New Labour

A Guardian editorial, after Ed Miliband’s recent speech in Google’s “big tent”, described Labour as “a party that pussyfooted around with avoidance for 13 years” and questioned whether Labour:

can convince the country it will do better next time. That will have to involve hard and specific commitments to act.

Ed is making the right noises they said but:

Sadly, Ed Balls’s policy papers remain overly cautious on the smallprint, replete with talk of “intelligent transparency”, which can surely only be something more slippery than transparency plain and simple.

The endless questions on a tax return are tiresome, but – Labour take note – in the end the thing to do is declare on every detail.

This is right. Could it be that New Labour just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) distinguish between the many who work for British business and the wealthy few who reaped the biggest rewards from British business? And could it be that Ed Balls still feels compromised by his own complicity in the mistakes of the past.

Methinks this could be another suitable occasion for an apology for the mistakes of the past.

Image credit: 72soul / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. Doug Northcott says:

    When the Labour leadership say’s they cannot divulge their policy program yet, as their opponents might take them! I despair!! O don’t think Attle or even Gaitskill would have feared that!!

  2. Rob says:

    They say it because they did the same, Labour when Major was in power brought out plans and the Tories took them then when Labour came to power Blair did the same.

    But the problem for Labour is that I doubt Ball’s or Miliband have anything to offer.

  3. John reid says:

    Douglas you’re right, it took the Tories 20 years to take on Gaitskells idea of selling council homes.

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