The shadow cabinet's £7m tax break

Now we know why the Tories hate inheritance tax

From today's Mirror:

David Cameron's closest Tory chums will make £7.1MILLION from his plans to slash inheritance tax for the super-rich.

A Mirror investigation has found that 18 millionaire members of the shadow cabinet will save up to £520,000 each under the Conservatives' flagship policy.

Among those benefiting from the controversial plans to raise the tax threshold to £2million are shadow chancellor George Osborne, foreign secretary William Hague and Mr Cameron.

. . . Eighteen out of 32 super-rich members of the shadow cabinet will be better off by at least £120,000. And the estates of Mr Cameron, shadow foreign secretary William Hague and shadow chancellor George Osborne will all benefit by more than £500,000 each.

As I have said before, so much for the Tories' "we're all in this together". The Mirror's Bob Roberts points out:

To put the figures in perspective, while just 6 per cent of estates across the UK will benefit from the Tory plans, the figure is 56 per cent for Mr Cameron's shadow cabinet allies.

Perhaps it's time Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman et al disinterred the language of "the many, not the few". Indeed, countless commentators have pointed out that the Tories' proposed cut in inheritance tax (IHT) drives a cart and horses through their claim to be a "progressive" political party. And the Mirror's investigation reminds us just how self-serving and out-of-touch Cameron's Conservatives are -- especially the shadow cabinet of millionaires.

This is not about class envy, or Old Etonians, or the Bullingdon Club. This is about the richest Tory front bench in living memory pledging to introduce an "age of austerity" -- involving public spending cuts and pay freezes -- from which their own estates will be conveniently exempt. There is no other way to put this: they are looking after themselves and their trustafarian friends and donors. As Gordon Brown said in the Commons last week:

This must be the only tax change in history where the people proposing it -- the leader of the opposition and the shadow chancellor -- will know by name almost all of the potential beneficiaries.

Every interview with David Cameron and -- especially -- George Osborne, particularly on the economy, has to begin with the question: "If we're all in this together, and this is the age of austerity, why are you so wedded to a tax cut for the nation's richest estates?"

 

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Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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The Women's March against Trump matters – but only if we keep fighting

We won’t win the battle for progressive ideas if we don’t battle in the first place.

Arron Banks, UKIP-funder, Brexit cheerleader and Gibraltar-based insurance salesman, took time out from Trump's inauguration to tweet me about my role in tomorrow's Women’s March Conservative values are in the ascendancy worldwide. Thankfully your values are finished. . . good”.

Just what about the idea of women and men marching for human rights causes such ill will? The sense it is somehow cheeky to say we will champion equality whoever is in office in America or around the world. After all, if progressives like me have lost the battle of ideas, what difference does it make whether we are marching, holding meetings or just moaning on the internet?

The only anti-democratic perspective is to argue that when someone has lost the argument they have to stop making one. When political parties lose elections they reflect, they listen, they learn but if they stand for something, they don’t disband. The same is true, now, for the broader context. We should not dismiss the necessity to learn, to listen, to reflect on the rise of Trump – or indeed reflect on the rise of the right in the UK  but reject the idea that we have to take a vow of silence if we want to win power again.

To march is not to ignore the challenges progressives face. It is to start to ask what are we prepared to do about it.

Historically, conservatives have had no such qualms about regrouping and remaining steadfast in the confidence they have something worth saying. In contrast, the left has always been good at absolving itself of the need to renew.

We spend our time seeking the perfect candidates, the perfect policy, the perfect campaign, as a precondition for action. It justifies doing nothing except sitting on the sidelines bemoaning the state of society.

We also seem to think that changing the world should be easier than reality suggests. The backlash we are now seeing against progressive policies was inevitable once we appeared to take these gains for granted and became arrogant and exclusive about the inevitability of our worldview. Our values demand the rebalancing of power, whether economic, social or cultural, and that means challenging those who currently have it. We may believe that a more equal world is one in which more will thrive, but that doesn’t mean those with entrenched privilege will give up their favoured status without a fight or that the public should express perpetual gratitude for our efforts via the ballot box either.  

Amongst the conferences, tweets and general rumblings there seem three schools of thought about what to do next. The first is Marxist  as in Groucho revisionism: to rise again we must water down our principles to accommodate where we believe the centre ground of politics to now be. Tone down our ideals in the hope that by such acquiescence we can eventually win back public support for our brand – if not our purpose. The very essence of a hollow victory.

The second is to stick to our guns and stick our heads in the sand, believing that eventually, when World War Three breaks out, the public will come grovelling back to us. To luxuriate in an unwillingness to see we are losing not just elected offices but the fight for our shared future.

But what if there really was a third way? It's not going to be easy, and it requires more than a hashtag or funny t-shirt. It’s about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down and starting to renew our call to arms in a way that makes sense for the modern world.

For the avoidance of doubt, if we march tomorrow and then go home satisfied we have made our point then we may as well not have marched at all. But if we march and continue to organise out of the networks we make, well, then that’s worth a Saturday in the cold. After all, we won’t win the battle of ideas, if we don’t battle.

We do have to change the way we work. We do have to have the courage not to live in our echo chambers alone. To go with respect and humility to debate and discuss the future of our communities and of our country.

And we have to come together to show there is a willingness not to ask a few brave souls to do that on their own. Not just at election times, but every day and in every corner of Britain, no matter how difficult it may feel.

Saturday is one part of that process of finding others willing not just to walk a mile with a placard, but to put in the hard yards to win the argument again for progressive values and vision. Maybe no one will show up. Maybe not many will keep going. But whilst there are folk with faith in each other, and in that alternative future, they’ll find a friend in me ready to work with them and will them on  and then Mr Banks really should be worried.