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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PMQs review: Theresa May shows again that Brexit means hard Brexit

The Prime Minister's promise of "an end to free movement" is incompatible with single market membership. 

Theresa May, it is commonly said, has told us nothing about Brexit. At today's PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn ran with this line, demanding that May offer "some clarity". In response, as she has before, May stated what has become her defining aim: "an end to free movement". This vow makes a "hard Brexit" (or "chaotic Brexit" as Corbyn called it) all but inevitable. The EU regards the "four freedoms" (goods, capital, services and people) as indivisible and will not grant the UK an exemption. The risk of empowering eurosceptics elsewhere is too great. Only at the cost of leaving the single market will the UK regain control of immigration.

May sought to open up a dividing line by declaring that "the Labour Party wants to continue with free movement" (it has refused to rule out its continuation). "I want to deliver on the will of the British people, he is trying to frustrate the British people," she said. The problem is determining what the people's will is. Though polls show voters want control of free movement, they also show they want to maintain single market membership. It is not only Boris Johnson who is pro-having cake and pro-eating it. 

Corbyn later revealed that he had been "consulting the great philosophers" as to the meaning of Brexit (a possible explanation for the non-mention of Heathrow, Zac Goldsmith's resignation and May's Goldman Sachs speech). "All I can come up with is Baldrick, who says our cunning plan is to have no plan," he quipped. Without missing a beat, May replied: "I'm interested that [he] chose Baldrick, of course the actor playing Baldrick was a member of the Labour Party, as I recall." (Tony Robinson, a Corbyn critic ("crap leader"), later tweeted that he still is one). "We're going to deliver the best possible deal in goods and services and we're going to deliver an end to free movement," May continued. The problem for her is that the latter aim means that the "best possible deal" may be a long way from the best. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.