Monday 6 September 2010

A challenge to The Times: poll the mansion tax and a bigger bank levy

The Times has come out for David Miliband as Labour leader, continuing a pretty good run of predictable predictions in my Left Foot Forward endorsement guide. As it is behind The Times paywall, the support may not reach much beyond the print readership, particularly since the endorsement repeats the newspaper's complaint that MiliD is lurching further centre-leftwards than the Times thinks sensible. It has been a rare media voice in raising the spectre of "Red David" in this leadership campaign:

David Miliband is not a perfect answer to Labour’s needs. His campaign has also flirted with policies on taxation that he will find have little resonance outside the party.

Evidence please?

An earlier "no left turn" editorial identified The Times' concerns about the MiliD manifesto as "a new mansion tax and doubling the bank levy". (The Times argued of these proposals, along with a high pay commission and employee representation on boards, that "in certain circumstances, Mr Miliband might make the case for one of those policies in isolation. But taken together, and stated as his priorities, they prompt concern about the direction of his campaign").

May I suggest the Times settle the argument of whether these proposals have "little resonance outside the party" by conducting an opinion poll to test whether the intutions of the leader writer about public opinion are shared by the public themselves.

The Daily Mail found Vince Cable's more expansive mansion tax (starting at £1 million) had 57% support with 27% against, as Left Foot Forward reminded us recently. The Miliband mansion tax is more modest, beginning at £2 million. It is less popular with newspapers than voters.

Whether it would be right or wrong as an economic policy idea, The Times would also find (especially during the next bonus round) that doubling the bank levy would resonate with a lot of non-Labour people, particularly in the "angry middle" whose concerns are voiced by the Daily Mail.

This blog has already looked at tax myths of the imaginary centre over starting a 50p top rate at a lower six-figure salary than £150,000. David Miliband has not flirted with this proposal. (But he will not scrap the current 50p rate in this Parliament; but nor, probably, will the Coalition, not least because two-thirds of the public support it).

Nor, in fact, has Ed Miliband proposed a lower starting rate, instead proposing to keep the current rate. So The Times says "His ideological relish for higher taxes is one thing; his belief that they will be popular quite another". I do not feel confident that the editorial writer knows what new taxes the younger Miliband has or has not proposed.


PS: The Times regards the Labour electoral college as "byzantine" - though it remains still very surprising for an editorial in a paper of record to get the most basic and easily checkable facts about it wrong.

It is hard to divine what is happening in Labour’s byzantine electoral system, in which the members have 40 per cent of the vote, the unions 30 per cent and the MPs 30 per cent, and second preferences will be crucial.

(Each section of the college has one-third of the vote: the editorial writer is probably misremembering the initial 40-30-30 electoral college created at the turbulent special conference in 1980 - where it was the unions who had 40%!)

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