Ed Miliband's tax dilemma

He's promised to tax more than Brown and Darling. But which should he raise?

The Tories have given us a preview of one of the strategies we can expect them to use against Ed Miliband, in a new Matt Hancock-penned dossier entitled: "which taxes would you put up, Mr Miliband?".

Miliband has pledged to support a 50:50 split between tax rises and spending cuts, the same balance adopted by Norman Lamont and Ken Clarke during the last period of significant fiscal tightening in the 1990s. This marks a break with the Brown-Darling plan which adopted a 67:33 split between taxation and spending.

In a interview with Channel 4 News last night, Milband confirmed that he would "do more from taxation" than Darling and cited his plans for a higher banking lavy and a crackdown on tax avoidance. The last Labour government planned £73bn of spending cuts and tax rises (George Osborne has announced an additional £40bn) which means that, assuming he retains the £21bn tax rises announced by Darling, Miliband needs to raise an additional £15.5bn from taxation.

As well as a beefed-up banking levy, which would raise an extra £5bn, he should consider reviving the original Lib Dem plan to tax capital gains at the same rate as income (the Tories limited the rise to 28 per cent). This would raise £3.2bn and have the advantage of dividing the coalition, while also wooing disillusioned Lib Dem supporters. Cutting the annual CGT exemption to £2,000 from its present level of £10,100, would raise a further £900m.

The Miliband team should also look at poaching the Lib Dem plan for a "mansion tax", a policy supported by David, but not Ed, during the leadership campaign. A 1 per cent a year levy on homes worth more than £2m would raise at least £1.7bn. These measures, combined with a tax avoidance crackdown of the sort planned by the coalition, would comfortably raise enough for Miliband to fulfil his 50:50 pledge.

By the end of the conference season and the all-important spending review, he will need to have some answers.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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