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Spare a penny for the rich, they’re down to their last million

A scene that brought tears to one’s eyes was seeing Lords Lawson and Lamont, both previous Chancellors, going on to the Today programme just before the budget to make a last-ditch plea for those who were really suffering in this era of austerity. No, it wasn’t for the 4 million working but not even being paid the Living Wage, nor those on zero hours contracts who live in constant insecurity never knowing from one week to the next what they’re going to be paid at all, nor the 6.7 million working households paid a poverty wage. No, it was for the highest paid tenth of the working population who have been pulled into the higher rate tax band because their incomes have been steadily rising. Not a thought for many low income taxpayers who pay a higher proportion of their earnings in tax because the council tax, national insurance contributions and VAT are all regressive taxes.

These are of course the same Tories who are outraged that Labour is pledged to restore the 50p rate of income tax. Before they blow a gasket in indignation, they should remember that for 9 of Thatcher’s 11 years in power, income tax was set at 60p. The threshold for this 60p rate was set at five times average earnings throughout most of the Thatcher era, yet when Labour proposes a threshold of £150,000 at the 50p rate, not 60p, and at six times average earnings, not five times, the Tory right and their banking friends go berserk. What this episode reveals is just how far the right-wing ideologues have got across in the media that the rich are hard done by, that they should be a first priority for any relief, and that they should be assisted because their role is vital to the British economy. This is nonsense and the Left needs to challenge these myths head-on.

What do the super-rich spend their money on? Almost nothing on manufacturing, job creation or exports. Instead a survey by Knight Frank found that they like to spend their wealth on on jewellery, art, watches, wine and cars. Super-yachts (those longer than 60 metres and with a price tag around £400m) have recently become a favourite, together with a return to private jets. But the latest fads are space travel and asteroid mining, with 70 billionaires putting money into space or sub-orbital flights. The favourite however remains prime property in and around the London area with 5,000 ‘ultra high net worth’ (as they’re called) non-doms now living there or, as we’ve recently learnt, not living there but buying mansions in some of the most exclusive streets (Bishops Avenue in Highgate or several corners in Kensington and Chelsea) and then leaving them derelict, but in the process forcing up house prices across the city and squeezing first-time buyers out of the market. The super-rich are not a net benefit to Britain, but a heavy burden. Labour needs to have the guts to recognise and acknowledge that if its own priorities for the average and low-paid are to be given real effect.

4 Comments

  1. Marie Lynam says:

    Thank you. It is important to get the facts, and the press does not. M. Meacher helps in doing this.
    Now this needs taking further, by analysing the nature of the Tories, investors and bankers’ reaction to anything adverse.
    They prepare to force us to accept their priorities. Hence evictions and the water cannon, to cut a long story short.
    What is the nature of such preparations? Violent and intractable. The irrevocable arming of the bourgeois class against the masses. Leading to conflicts where it will blame the people for daring to stand up.
    And the conflict will surely remain most unequal as long as it remains on bourgeois terrain.
    I propose Michael takes a leading part in the People Assembly, takes a lead in Labour Against Austerity, and help the various left Labour organisations create a Labour leadership worthy of the name.
    Comradely greetings, Marie Lynam, GMB, LRC, individual initiative

  2. David Ellis says:

    Michael you can burst the Tories’ budget poll boost today by pointing out that their so-called pension reforms are nothing of the sort.

    There is no additional choice. In fact, if the annuity market collapses as a result of this change there will be much less choice.

    People always had the choice to pay into a pension pot and get tax relief on those payments. If, however, they do not buy an annuity at the end they pay tax on the lump sum or sums that they take instead which is no different than if they had saved or invested the money ordinarily in the first place. This is another Tory illusion which will destroy capital, massively boost the balance of payments deficit and add to the house price bubble.

  3. Robert says:

    Funny I’m disabled who the hell made me poorer it was not the bankers welfare reforms started in 1997 with that great socialist Blair.

    The real issue of course Michael is right but he’s a lefty, I hope he’s not saying Milband is.

  4. ShirleyKnott says:

    My thoughts on listening to these whining wealthy w…….s were scornful to say the least. As they droned about how many tens of thousands higher the threshold would be if it had kept pace with inflation were, well, how much higher now would the personal allowance be if it too kept pace with inflation? And how much higher the threshold for NI – and how much higher the NI cap (which is an effective tax cut for the higher rate tax payers!)? And why the …. didn’t they get asked such questions by the bbc quislings?

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