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Ignore the special pleading of millionaires against mansion tax

Lord LevyWe never have had much time for the knocking copy regularly provided by a bunch of has-beens who never backed Ed Miliband in the first place. When things get tough, you can guarantee that they’ll parade their disloyalty through the newsrooms and TV studios. And so it was this weekend that the first pair of traitors – Lords Levy and Noon took their spite somewhere that always welcomes an opportunity to get back at Ed – Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times – and without a hint of irony chose the mansion tax as the stick with which to lash out at Ed.

Under the heading “Labour barons hammer ‘death-wish’ Miliband“, Blairite fundraiser Lord Levy (aka “Mr Cashpoint“) attacked the mansion tax as “totally inappropriate” and having “no validity whatsoever”, warning that the Labour leader had to do more to win over business chiefs whose financial support the party needed. Lord Levy, who made his fortune advising celebrities in the music and entertainment industry how to avoid tax and based his own investment company, Wineart, in a tax haven, owns a multi-million pound ‘hacienda style” mansion in north London complete with with swimming pool and tennis courts (where Tony Blair was a regular partner) so he is hardly without a vested interest. 

Lord Noon, alumnus of the Sunday Times Rich list, is a Labour Peer who has form in attacking his chosen party when it suggests it might clamp down on tax dodgers. In 2008, he claimed “everybody is against” the then government proposal to clamp down on non domiciliary tax status and threatened to leave the country if they did. He also threatened to stop donating to Labour rather than give up his own non-dom status when party donations from rich non-doms was to be banned. But then he mysteriously gave it up anyway the following year explainingingI’m no longer a non-dom so I can take up a fuller role in its political and commercial life.” Could he have meant that he still wanted a seat in the House of Lords which happened just to have decided to ban non-doms from sitting in the Lords? He had been barred from one in the cash for honours scandal, but by an amazing coincidence, he did get a peerage the very next year.

Still, in spite of his proven willingness to pay his share of tax, what is our obligation to listen to someone who forced his workforce in Southall into a bitter strike battle to win union recognition even though 90% of them had already joined the GMB? He may brand Miliband’s plans for a mansion tax as a “hopeless and desperate idea”which “is going back to the 1970s,” but I think we’ll need an awful lot more far taxes before we’ll hear the sound of pips squeaking. And Lord Noon can afford the tax on his exclusive St John’s Wood mansion.

The next millionaire to step up with his criticisms of mansion tax – in yesterday’s Telegraph – was Labours biggest donor, successful businessman John Mills. He is no Blairite, being a longstanding opponent of the EU and promoter of policies for growth and investment, and to be fair his criticisms were detailed and well-informed – he was a leading councillor in Camden for 35 years. “Apart from issues of whether it’s fair or going to work – is it requires really tricky valuations,” he says. “It’s a step from zero to some quite large number which is going to produce all sorts of problems on the boundary.”

Mills favours more council tax bands which I’d favour too though that addresses a different problem – that the standard national council tax bands do not adequately reflect the very much higher in London and the South East. A mansion tax provides a mechanism for taxing a major component of wealth which can be levied even where the property owner is absent, non-resident, non-domiciled and has the best tax advisers money can buy. The Labour policy makes clear that:

there would be protections in place for people who do not have a high income but happen to live in an expensive property. Labour will only support a mansion tax that is fair to those who are asset rich but cash poor.”

So, without wishing to cause offence to John Mills, he is sufficiently well acquainted with Labour’s policy process to argue his case – he could have done so within the party structures alongside the rest of us – but he does not deserve any special hearing based on his ability to secure column inches in the Telegraph. And he can afford the mansion tax that will be due on his attractive Georgian house in trendy Camden.

If wealthy “successful” businessmen think they have some special wisdom about government policy that entitles them to parade their opinions around a hostile press, they’re wrong. It is part of the arrogance and conceit of the very rich that, just because they have succeeded in making themselves wealthy (and in many cases where they can’t claim even that), they believe their opinions on other matters outside their own experience is worth more than ours.

The party of the people should listen to people’s opinions without fear or favour. The opinions of those with a vested interest should be treated with enormous scepticism if not with outright derision. And those who take their opinions to the Murdoch press to do damage to the party and its leaders in the run up to an election are no friends of ours.

Image credit: BBC

 

7 Comments

  1. Rod says:

    “the first pair of traitors”

    Why the venom?

    It is Miliband himself who deserves criticism, he’s the one who initiated a campaign against the trade unions, backed disastrous military intervention in Libya and wants to implement Tory austerity etc.

    It’s not Noon and Levy who are going to lose the general election for Labour, it’s Miliband and his Progress cronies with their dismal ‘limited offer’.

  2. William Jones says:

    Come now Rod,on the specific issue on which he wrote,Jon’s comments are entirely appropriate.

    1. Robert says:

      both are correct, it should not be a surprise now that New labour has gone Blair is now retired from politics within the labour party, these people are going home to the good ship Tory.

      But labour did attack the Unions all because Progress got it fingers burned with it’s right wing candidates in Falkirk then ran to Blair who contacted Miliband.

      I’m not surprised at Noon and Levy or Prescott maybe they all have large houses .

      Thatcher has gone so has Blair the attack was turned onto the rich for ten seconds and they did not like it lets see what Miliband now does.

    2. Rod says:

      Noon and Levy are simply, and predictably, looking after their own interests.

      I’ll be doing the same in 2015, that’s why I won’t be voting for Tory policies whether presented by Cameron or Miliband.

  3. William Jones says:

    Well Rod,I’m sorry to see you go along with this concept of “Red Tories”.This concept was drawn up as a piece of propaganda from the SDP to try and dissuade Labour supporters from voting No!

    Are you really suggesting that the comparison of the Brown and Cameron Governments is entirely appropriate?

    1. Robert says:

      Ask those who are now without a home because labour could not be bother to vote against the bed room tax that was not the SNP that was 46 labour MP’s. Ask the sick the disabled who have been through the ATOS welfare reforms.

      Ask the people without NHS dentist, ask people who find it hard to pay for prescriptions Rod is not the only one who will be going somewhere else I’m lucky I’ve a Welsh labour party which like the SNP did it best to help the people not flog them to death.

      Nothing in the labour party these days.

    2. Rod says:

      William, my loyalty to the Labour Party ended after reading Allyson Pollock’s book ‘NHS plc’.

      As you may not have time to read the book, here’s a review:

      http://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/oct/02/highereducation.politicalbooks

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