Could Richard Curtis have another hit with the Robin Hood tax?

Bill Nighy stars in short film to launch campaign for a tax on financial transactions.

 

Richard Curtis and Bill Nighy have made a new film, but it isn't a romance and it doesn't feature Hugh Grant.

The short film (above) takes as its topic a proposed banking tax -- previously known as the financial transaction tax, or the Tobin tax (after the economist who named it), but rebranded here as the altogether more snappy "Robin Hood tax".

Bill Nighy, a brilliantly shifty and unpleasant executive, cashes in on the public's suspicion of bankers as he tries to wave away the "very complex" proposal.

The film argues that a tax of just 0.05 per cent on global transactions between financial institutions (equating to five pence for every £1,000) would raise hundreds of billions of pounds to alleviate poverty and fund public services.

The campaign -- supported by a coalition of domestic and international charities and unions -- was launched today, although early on Tuesday morning, the phrase "Be part of the world's greatest bank job" was projected on to the Bank of England. Such innovative, guerrilla marketing tactics may well be an effective way of mobilising public support. At the very least, it informs people about an arcane tax law in an exciting and entertaining way.

There are arguments to be made for and against the tax (the Guardian summarises a few of these perspectives), but with Curtis onside, making use of YouTube, Facebook and celebrity endorsements, it will be interesting to see what impact, if any, the film has on public discourse, and even policy -- let's not forget that Gordon Brown endorsed the idea not so long ago.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.