Reductio ad Stalinum

Boris compares the 50p tax with Stalin's campaign against the kulaks

Boris Johnson writes today: "[T]he 50p tax is not far, in its political motive, from Stalin's assault on the kulaks."

I'm used to right-wingers trotting out the cliché that Labour wants to "tax the rich until the pips squeak" (never actually said by Denis Healey), but I hadn't anticipated a comparison with the man who pledged to "liquidate the kulaks as a class".

Johnson isn't the first Telegraph columnist to make such an inappropriate comparison. Last week Janet Daley absurdly compared the EU with the Warsaw Pact.

As in the case of its better-known cousin, reductio ad Hitlerum, there should be an informal moratorium on this sort of thing.

Johnson's remarks will delight Tory activists, many of whom loathe the new tax, but they once more put him at odds with David Cameron and George Osborne, who have insisted that everyone must pay their "fair share". Osborne has even defended the 50p rate on the grounds that it will help foster a "more equal society".

This isn't the first time that Johnson has used his Telegraph column to criticise the tax. There is perhaps no other issue on which he writes and speaks with such fervour. Should he continue in his role as unofficial spokesman for the grass-roots campaign against the tax, this could become dangerous for Cameron.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The murder of fearless journalist Pavel Sheremet must be solved - but Ukraine needs more

Sheremet was blown up as he drove to host a morning radio programme

On 20th of July Kiev was shaken by the news of the assassination of the respected Belarusian journalist Pavel Sheremet. Outside the ex-Soviet republics he was hardly known. Yet the murder is one that the West should reflect on, as it could do much to aggravate the Ukrainian-Russian conflict. 

Sheremet was one of the most significant and high profile investigative journalists of his generation. His career as an archetypal  examiner of the post-Soviet regimes in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia bought him fame and notoriety in the region. From 1997 onwards Sheremet became a name for fearless and non-partisan interrogation, both in print and as also as TV presenter. He paid the price early on when he was incarcerated by the Belarus government, then stripped of his Belarusian nationality and deported. Such is the way of things in the region.

Taking up residence in Kiev, Sheremet became immersed in interrogating the political life of Ukraine. He wrote for the Ukrayinska Pravda publication and also helped to develop a journalism school. Under these auspices he was a participant of a congress, "The dialogue between Ukraine and Russia", in April 2014. He reported on beginnings of the Euromaidan uprising. He warned of the rise of the concept  of "Novorossia" and suggested that Ukraine needed to reset its current status and stand up to Russian pressure. After the Russian occupation of Crimea his blame for the Ukrainian government was ferocious. He alleged that that they "left their soldiers face to face the [Russian] aggressor and had given up the Crimean peninsula with no attempt to defend it." These, he said "are going to be the most disgraceful pages of Ukrainian history."

Sheremet was blown up at 7.45am on 20 July as he drove to host a morning radio programme.

Ukraine is a dangerous place for journalists. Fifty of them have been murdered since Ukraine achieved independence. However, this murder is different from the others. Firstly, both the Ukrainian President and the Interior minister immediately sought assistance from FBI and EU investigators. For once it seems that the Ukrainian government is serious about solving this crime. Secondly, this IED type assassination had all the trappings of a professional operation. To blow a car up in rush hour Kiev needs a surveillance team and sophisticated explosive expertise. 

Where to lay the blame? Pavel Sheremet had plenty of enemies, including those in power in Belarus, Russia and the militias in Ukraine (his last blog warned of a possible coup by the militias). But Ukraine needs assistance beyond investigators from the FBI and the EU. It needs more financial help to support credible investigative journalism.   

The murder of Pavel Sheremet was an attack on the already fragile Ukrainian civil society, a country on the doorstep of the EU. The fear is that the latest murder might well be the beginning of worse to come.

Mohammad Zahoor is the publisher of Ukrainian newspaper The Kyiv Post.