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Self interested media/business attacks on 50p an opportunity for Labour (with PS on hypocrite Dacre)

Posted on 27 January 2014 | 9:01am

As the debate over Labour’s 50p tax plans develops, it is worth remembering that a small proportion of people will be affected by it, but that a very large proportion of the small proportion will be writing and talking about it in our national media. This partly explains the well-organised avalanche of business voices wheeled out to attack in the last 24 hours.

Even the Financial Times, which can usually be relied upon for a bit of a balance when all around others are losing theirs, is somewhat affected this morning. ‘Businesses blast 50p tax plans by Labour’ is the Mail/Telegraph/Sun/Express/Star-style front page headline, and to be fair, the story does indeed carry a number of business voices doing the said blasting. But, when studied with the little strapline beneath ‘Tories claim proposal threatens recovery’, one can forgive Tory strategists an extra special smile as they survey the morning’s media landscape.

There are two other parts of the FT that I want to quote, to illustrate the point that much of the press and much of business will now go onto anti-Labour autopilot, confusing their own perceived interests with the broader interests of the country and the millions of people who live in it. This has already happened to some extent in the way ‘the recovery’ is now stated virtually as a fact, when there is precious little sign of it in the lives and pockets of millions of people without access to media opinion-forming; and in the way that the government’s claims to be getting the deficit under control – when the opposite is the case – have somehow been pushed to the margins of serious media scrutiny.

Page 3 of the FT, topped with three large pictures of three critics of the new move, has this sentence …. ‘Decisions on income tax rates are the most symbolic decisions any political party can make to indicate its priorities and values.’ They are certainly important but ‘the most symbolic’? I am not so sure about that. In 1997, our decision to commit to no rise in the basic and top rate of tax was certainly important. But in terms of indicating values and priorities, I think the commitment to establish a national minimum wage was more ‘symbolic.’ This was the move, you may remember, which many of those Tories, business people and journalists at the time said would cost ‘one million jobs.’ They lied, in other words, and presented all manner of bogus ‘economic’ analysis from friends in the City to justify the lies. Another symbolic but highly practical policy, indicative of values and priorities, was the New Deal, a windfall tax on the excess profits (remember those) of the privatised utilities, which was used to fund a youth employment programme. The Tory/business/media alliance at the time said this was vindictive and that it would not create a single new job. It did. Many of them.

I could go through many such examples from each of the three elections we won. But for now, I want to turn to the front of the FT ‘Companies and Markets’ section, whose lead story is headlined ‘Citi to pay half of bonus in cash,’ and whose intro reads as follows: ‘Citigroup will pay most of its investment bankers at least half their bonuses in cash this year, underlining how US banks continue to be much more generous than their European rivals.’ Note the slant of the reporting, the word ‘generous’ suggesting goodness in the values and priorities reflected in this decision, compared with the ‘blast’ by businesses against Labour’s tax plans back on page 1 of the main section.

‘Bankers getting bonuses of $5million or more will be paid 40percent in cash for their 2013 performance,’ we read. Well halellulah. Oh, and of course (this my irony-voice now, not my media monitoring voice) if anyone were to suggest that any of that might be taxed, well, they’re all jolly well going to go and live in Geneva or the Virgin Islands. Only they’re not. Because London is actually a great place to live, not least because money paid via general taxation helps to deliver tubes, trains, buses, roads, hospitals, schools, theatres, sports facilities, you know, stuff that makes it a bit livelier than Geneva or the Virgin Islands.

So in addition to defending the decision, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and co also have the task of dealing with the distorting media/business machine that will now throw everything it can at the 50p plan. This requires sustained, disciplined argument and rebuttal over time, so that over time the public get a better sense of why the shouts of protest and their endless ventilation in the press, and its TV/radio echo chamber, are so loud.

I was also pleased to see Ed Balls start to defend Labour’s overall economic record with a bit more vigour. As I have argued before, the past failure properly to take on the Tory line about ‘the mess (sic) we inherited’ is what has allowed them to run with these false claims about sorting the deficit and delivering recovery. It is never too late, and the fact that this tax divide is now centre stage gives Labour the opportunity to get back into all those arguments, start to win them, and start to show the majority view is not the same thing as the media conventional wisdom on any given debate.

** Talking of media conventional wisdom, is there really only Private Eye of the London media that will take any interest in the money-grabbing hypocrisy of anti-European/anti-devolution Scottish landowner and Mail Obergruppenfuhrer Paul Dacre, whose latest money-grabbing hypocrisy is exposed in that excellent newspaper the West Highland Free Press.

According to Andy Wightman, a Scottish Green Party member and author of a fascinating book, Who Owns Scotland, Dacre received £625,900 via an EU scheme in 2011-12 for tree planting. Half of this came from the EU (which he despises) and the other half from the Scottish government (which he also despises). So double whammy money-grabbing hypocrisy time. Well triple I guess, because he is also a climate change sceptic but happy to trouser on environmental grounds.

No, quadruple hypocrisy, because here is how the Mail covered the story of a Tory MP benefiting from the same kind of subsidy.

The Guardian did a great job in exposing phone-hacking. But Dacre, partly because of his power within the Press Complaints Commission and his role in trying to prevent Leveson compliant self-regulation, still has a bizarre hold over many of his Fleet Street rivals. Hence the news blackout of this staggering money-grabbing hypocrisy. Long live the West Highland Free Press, I say. Keep at it. And let me know the date of the Langwell Estate right to roam ramble. I’ll bring my pipes.

  • Richard Thomas

    The reaction of the Tory press isn’t quite in the same league as the oped in the Wall Street Journal where one super rich man compared the potential for the exposure of the greed of him and his ilk to the kristallnacht in Nazi Germany. We probably won’t have long to wait for the Mayor of London to pick up that particular theme.

  • Christopher Pipe

    I’m against the proposed 50p tax rate. It should be at least 60p. After all, nobody earning that much money will notice the difference.

    • Ehtch

      Trouble is, those that should be affected more, offshore their earnings, via accountants bells and whistled tricks. Even “respectable” people all over the country do that these days, who earn large wedges.

  • Michele

    I think it’s about time that some tax loopholes and incentives for wind farms etc became known as Benefits (and their claimants became k/a scroungers for claiming/accepting them).

    I would also like someone to place a challenge on Osbo and Camsham the next time ‘the mess we inherited’ is hauled out of their very limited script. I’d like a minute by minute explanation of what they would have done over the weekend preceding Sept 15th 2008 after Dubbya had stood there all wobbly-lipped and clueless as Lehman was allowed to fail (after all we have heard UK critics claim that our own banks should have also been left to flop). Minute by minute the effects of each action and the repurcussions around the world during each country’s business hours what they’d have expected and ‘coped with’ so much better than they dare to claim Messrs Brown & Darling did.

  • KDouglas

    I knew where I stood on this when I saw Digby Jones wheeled out on BBC1, saying the restoration of the 50p rate might play well in the north east with those on zero-hour contracts but wasn’t for inhabitants of the real world earning real money. it’s ‘lousy economics’, you see, when it affects those on more than £150k. For those who don’t know how much they’ll earn in any one week, it’s merely ‘politics’.

  • Ehtch

    20% VAT needs to have attention, not this. It is a tax on benefits, indirectly. Amazes me that not many people bang on about that.

    • Michele

      I’d not agree with your ‘not this’ although I do think the VAT rate needs to be addressed.
      Between them HMRC and local council tax depts must have details of all big UK-based companies and their tax arangements (whether paid here or declared overseas).
      I’m sure it’s not only benefits recipients that shop at our high street price-named shops but would it not be totally sick if much of what is paid out from our taxes and NI conts is going to owners/shareholders that don’t pay tax here themselves? I’m equally sure that many of these businesses’ senior sourcing employees are not UK-based (and employing the Amazon defence re ‘presence’).

      • Ehtch

        Those international conglomerates, selling tat or coffee or other, abuse modern technology to dodge tax. And Governments are lagging well behind in sorting it. Our Government is more interested in putting bum fluff press releases out each day, spouted out by BBC breakie news each morning, on cue.

        Our Government agencies can’t even remember how to dredge and clear waterways anymore, with Cabinet Environment Ministers coming out with their fail grade GCSE Geography to explain a flooding disaster.

    • Janet Edwards

      Quite right Etch, VAT receives far too little attention. People on low/modest incomes who barely manage from one pay cheque to the next, are effectively taxed twice. Having paid income tax at 20%, a further 20% is taken as they spend their already taxed cash. Of course anyone not earning enough to pay income tax, including pensioners and benefit recipients, pay a fifth of everything they spend in tax too. Admittedly non-luxury food is exempted but VAT is payable on almost everything else. Although I once had a Twitter debate with a Tory MP who claimed it was possible to avoid paying VAT at all!

      • Gillian C.

        Re. your final sentence Janet, did this Tory MP say how it’s possible to avoid paying VAT?

        • Janet Edwards

          Er .. no! When I gave him a list of obvious everyday essentials liable for VAT he stopped discussing it. Wish I could remember who it was, I should have kept a screen shot 🙂

      • Ehtch

        Well, a Tory MP would know how to avoid tax, wouldn’t he Janet? ; )

        • Janet Edwards

          Quite a challenge I’d say ….even for a Tory.

          • Ehtch

            They have their ways – they can get away with anything!

  • p a t r i c k

    I am delighted by Ed Balls announcement that Labour proposes to introduce a 50p tax level for those earning more than £150,000 per year. I can’t believe anyone actually needs more than £150,000 per year and I don’t know how they spend it.

    We are told that if this tax increase happens then all these extremely wealthy people will disappear overseas and take all their investing and job creation overseas as well.

    However the other European countries have similar or more tax for these extremely high earners and they don’t seem to have had an exodus of these wealthy people to other countries.

    I am always delighted to see hypocrisy of Paul Dacre highlighted. It is so disappointing that the media has not followed that story in the West Highland Free Press. I can guess that this is because they fear Paul Dacre, maybe some of them want to retain the possibility of working for Paul Dacre in the future. It illustrates once again how poorly we are served by our press.

    • Ehtch

      Sweden taxes their people to eye watering levels, but we don’t see many Swedes buggering off to Belize or some other offshore place, do we? We have too many greedy c.., AHEM!, people in this country. Yes? Am I right or am I right?

  • Ehtch

    As an aside, Trees Lounge movie is in this week on Film 4,

    Korea, what Korea?

    and one I saw last arseholed week,

  • Ehtch

    Footie talk – nice win for the Swans tonight Ali. Bottom ten is very congested, only six points between them! Zeros vee Brighton. Come on Clarets!! : )

    Shoved some rugger vids on me U-Sless site page here – 6N kicks off this weekend. Should be a good one, as usual,

  • Ehtch

    Since the vast disappearance of British Legion clubhouses, thinking of setting up a sub-club in my local Workingman’s Club, for ex-servicemen and for present serving servicemen when they are home, for seamen, brylcreamed flyboys and for the bogtrotters, all together! : ) And oh yes of course of course, ex and present day service-ladies super super of course… ; )

  • Ehtch

    KIM CATTRALL!! blimey, out of all of them, always had the hots for that lass from Liverpool in NYC…

    over 18s only please… —>

  • Ehtch

    To digress well well well even more Ali, just posted a tribute vid to my daughter, 23 next month, the fishy Pisces she is… blub! Scuba dives with the sharks with her backpacking job, holding the hands of shit scared year outers… ; )

  • Ehtch

    Oh dear oh dear, our County Council has got themselves into a right mess/pickle(!), and it goes all the way to the top, allegedly…

  • Ehtch

    What the hell is this that The Guardian has posted Ali?

    What I have noticed that ginge blue eyeds are, umm, quite cranky, Lohan-like. While brown eyed gingers are the total depiction of human serenity. That is what I have noticed, in life. Very strange it is.

    Lindsay L,