Thursday, 17 July 2014

Labour and tax..

Team Ed and Team Dave are locked into a bitter row over tax. Ed Miliband will "crush middle Britain" with new tax rises, the Tories say. It's "deeply dishonest form of politics", Labour reply. (Eleven more months of this, folks.) 
It all centres on comments made by Harriet Harman during her phone-in on LBC Radio. "I think people on middle incomes should contribute more through their taxes," Ms Harman replied when she was asked if her party would do more for the middle classes. Labour say it's a straightforward defence of progressive taxation. "It exposes the flimsiness of the party's pose as champions of the squeezed middle," say Dave's new bezzies at the Sun, "She thinks they are there to be squeezed." 
Who's right? Well, it's a bit of Column A and a bit of Column B. Yes, the Conservative attack line is a little unfair. But there's a feeling in the upper echelons of the Tory party that the reason why Labour are so cross about it is that they know there's a grain of truth to it. 
The Labour leadership are off to Milton Keynes this weekend to their National Policy Forum where they, the unions and sundry affliates will hammer out a consensus as to the party's policy platform. As ever with these things, the big hope in the leadership is that the row plays itself out behind closed doors and not in the headlines. Nationalising the railways, capping the cost of welfare and the public sector pay freeze are ongoing running sores between that party and its leadership. 
Labour's shadow Treasury team recognise that going into the next election promising to raise taxes is like smoking in a firework factory. But it's unlikely - in fact it's impossible - to imagine how a Labour government would be able to get five years of fiscal consolidation past its backbenchers without some tax rises that would, of course, hit the middle class. (Whisper it, but the same is true of the Tories, although there would be a difference in which pet projects benefited from the extra cash.) 
It's a reminder, though, that, the structures of British politics favour the incumbent. As in every election since the dawn of time, the government can go to the polls either offering new spending (as Labour did in 2001 and 2005) or tax cuts (as the Tories did in 1983, 1987 and 1992). The Opposition goes into the election trying to avoid being labelled as merciless cutters or dangerous spendthrifts. However unfair it may feel to Labour, political gravity favours the Conservatives. 

"Clegg: We Must Axe The Bedroom Tax" is the Mirror's splash. The DPM calls today for the Bedroom Tax to be scrapped. A report into the effectiveness of the ending of the spare room subsidy finds that it has pushed households into arrears and cost the taxpayer more money, as council house tenants are forced to leave larger and cheaper council homes and rent from the private sector, putting more pressure on the housing benefit bill. But, as George Eaton explains, the Liberal leadership want the policy reformed, not scrapped.  They want better protection for people who actually need the spare room - the disabled, the elderly, people with children who live with them part time, etcetera. They're splitting the difference between the line favoured by their activists and the Labour Party, and the approach preferred by the Conservatives.
Lord Hill of Oareford is selling his £375,000 stake in a public affairs company in order to have a clean skin when he faces the verdict of MEPs, the FT reports. The confirmation of the former Major aide is turning into an uphill battle.  Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, has threatened that MEPs may veto Lord Hill for his "Eurosceptic views, which he is supposed to have". The claim that Lord Hill - chosen in part because he was regarded as sufficiently pro-European not to arouse the ire of MEPs - is Eurosceptic has raised fears that the peer may end up paying the price for Jean-Claude Juncker's bruised ego. GONGS FOR THE BOYS 
"The reshuffle backlash" roars the Mail. The PM is facing criticism over reported plans to hand out honours to ministers sacked in the reshuffle. Alan Duncan, former International Development Minister, Hugh Robertson, once of the Foreign Office, and Oliver Heald, the outgoing Solicitor General, are all tipped for a K. It's undermining the honours system, says Labour's Michael Dugher. Peers are irate that Baroness Stowell, the new leader of the Lords, will not be a full member of the Cabinet. It's a "constitutional outrage", they say. Oh, and to make matters worse, defenestrated Cabinet minister Owen Paterson was seen standing defiantly alongside reshuffle refusenik Liam Fox. There may well be trouble ahead.  THE ECHR HOKEY-COKEY
Should we stay or should we go? A halfway house between leaving the European Court of Human Rights and staying in will be launched at the Conservative party conference, Chris Grayling has announced. The policy has the green light now that Dominic Grieve isn't around to oppose it, Nick Robinson suggested on the Today programme. Just one snafu: Mr Grieve is very much around on the backbenches, still well-liked across parties, and, both in the event of a second coalition or a small Tory majority, surely able to remain a powerful advocate for the status quo.
Michael Fabricant claims that Sir Robert Rogers, the Clerk of the Commons, is retiring in part because John Bercow, the speaker, swore at him. The Speaker was unimpressed. Sources close to Mr Bercow say he never uses the F-word: “His style is more verbose than a four letter word," Christopher Hope says.
BAD NEWS FOR THE BRADY BUNCHThe next Conservative manifesto is expected to include plans to restrict child benefit for larger families, with parents unable to claim for more than four children, Peter Dominiczak reports.

The Morning Briefing is written by Stephen Bush, who tweets as@stephenkb. Our cartoon is the work of the Telegraph's excellent cartoonist Christian Adams; you can view sketches and recent Telegraph cartoons on his InstagramPOLL OF POLLS
Poll of polls 10th to 17th July (Populus-ICM--IpsosMori-YouGov) Labour lead by three points

In the Telegraph
Peter Oborne - This fiasco of a reshuffle almost looks like an act of sabotage
John McTernan - Michael Gove is an intellectula thug. That's why he will make a great Chief Whip
James Kirkup - From climate change to Boko Haram, we're all mouth and no trousers
Dan Hodges - Harriet Harman has made the first major gaffe of the next election

Best of the Rest
James Forsyth - If the Tories win the election, the reshuffle gamble will have paid off
George Eaton - What does Cameron stand for beyond a desire to win?AGENDA0900: Call Clegg on LBC 97.3.1000 LONDON: Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood gives evidence to Commons Constitutional Reform Committee.
1115 LONDON: Publication of Lady Justice Heather Hallett's report about OTRs.2000 MARLBOROUGH: Neil Hamilton, Lord Whitty, Laura Sandys and Ryan Bourne debate chaired by Michael Kallenbach.