Britain opposes European plans for a Robin Hood tax

Downing Street says it will defend the City from a financial transaction tax that EU leaders claim c

Britain has vowed to fight European plans for a tax on financial transactions. At a summit in Paris on Tuesday, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel surprised other European leaders by calling for a tax that would be applied to deals in shares, bonds, and derivatives.

Campaigners have been calling for the so-called Robin Hood tax for many months. A European Commission paper drawn up this year suggested that a tax of 0.1 per ecnt on stocks and bonds, coupled with a 0.01 per cent levy on derivatives deals, could raise between €31 billion and €50 billion each year.

The idea of a tax on financial transactions was pioneered by the American economist James Tobin but struggled to gain traction during the neoliberal dominance of the 1980s. The idea was mooted by Gordon Brown back in 2009, but he failed to gain significant support for it.

One of the main challenges of introducing a Tobin tax is reaching international agreement. Referring to this latest proposal, a Treasury spokesman said: "Any financial transaction tax would have to apply globally -- otherwise the transactions covered would simply relocate to countries not applying the tax."

Implementing the tax across Europe would go some way towards achieving this; but such a move would require the unanimous approval of all 27 of the EU's member states, and is as such unlikely.

This is a shame. The tax would reduce the excessive risk-taking that brought the world's financial system to its knees. Campaigners also estimate that a small tax could raise billions without having a negative impact on the prosperity of the sector.

Support has come from some unexpected places. In August 2009, Lord Turner, the chairman of the Financial Services Authority, suggested that a tax on financial transactions could limit the money available for bonuses and added that it would be "a nice sensible revenue source for funding global public goods".

However, the British government is clearly not interested in even exploring the option of seeking consensus on the tax. When a financial transaction tax was included in the European Commission's seven-year plan at the end of June, Downing Street instantly dismissed the proposal as "completely unrealistic". José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, responded saying: "Some are saying no before they've studied the proposal which was only finalised a few hours ago ... That doesn't fit with seriousness and credibility."

Predictably, shares in backs and stockbroking firms fell with the news. Yet this is no reason for capitulation. The City has called the shots for too long, with a return to business as usual raising the spectre of another financial crash. It is a shame that Downing Street and the Treasury are so concerned with defending the status quo, rather than looking at options for substantive, long-term change.

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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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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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