Symbols and reality

Some more logical gymnastics from Evan Harris:

Evan Harris, the party’s science spokesman, admitted that the proposed package would be more progressive but said he was worried that ditching the 50p rate was a “symbolic” move that would send the wrong signal to voters.

In other words, we shouldn’t bother striving to do what we believe to be right, but what we believe to be popular.

The real problem with Harris’ rebellion is it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. By spending a large portion of Conference week denouncing our policy he threatens to drown out those who would rather explain it. He effectively hands a stick to our opponents to beat us with.

Evan Harris prides himself as a secularist and rationalist, yet he’s going to go to Brighton next month calling us to vote for the equivalent of fairies at the bottom of our garden.

Don’t get me wrong, I have certain misgivings about our proposed new taxation policy – I may even get around to submitting an amendment of my own – but what objections I have are about how the policy will work in reality, not what “messages” it might send out.


  1. Agreed.

    There is a respectable argument that *tactically* you benefit from having one “hair shirt” policy to give credibility to the rest of the package but, now that Evan accepts that the proposals as drafted are *more* progressive than the 2005 manifesto, it seems a little silly for the 50p rate to be it.

    It’s hard to see a sensible argument on the 50p rate. I think LVT / LIT is a more interesting debate: I may not agree with you but I can see that this one is rather more finely balanced.

    Out of interest, James, what do you reckon the substantive amendents will be?

    One on the 50p rate and one pushing for LVT now (rather than post Lyons)?

    Or something more obscure, like something on the R&D tax credit, for example?

    And a reference back (groan)?

  2. I can guarantee there will be a reference back motion and I’m sure there will be more obscure amendments as well.

    In terms of what I’m thinking of proposing, it would be along the lines of an additional cut of 4p on income tax paid for by the introduction of SVR at a local level (which also effectively means devolving an additional 25% of spending to a local level). It won’t seek to scrap LIT as I think LIT is just as legitimate as national income taxes. But I’m still mulling it over.

    I would hasten to add that this wouldn’t be my “ideal” position, but I do think it would be do-able for a single term of government. It would simply mean localising 4p of income tax and reforming council tax to make it into SVR, which would be no more complicated than what the Tax Commission is proposing. I appreciate the argument about waiting for Lyons and agree that everything should be reviewed again then, but I also think it is important to signal in advance of Lyons about our direction of travel.

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