How Labour would ensure the rich don't benefit from a 10p tax rate

The party plans to adjust thresholds elsewhere in the tax system, so that higher-earners don't gain from a lower starting rate of income tax.

One important detail in Ed Miliband's speech largely overlooked by the media is that only basic rate taxpayers would gain from the return of the 10p tax rate. Without this proviso, the policy would be more expensive, since higher-rate taxpayers would also benefit, as well as regressive, since the largest gains would flow to the richest households (as in the case of increasing the personal allowance). Miliband has no intention of handing a tax cut to millionaires by allowing them to pay a marginal rate of just 10p on their first £1,000 of earnings above the personal allowance. 

In order to ensure that only basic rate taxpayers benefit from the policy, I'm told by a Labour source that the party would look at adjusting thresholds elsewhere in the income tax system or at tapering away the gains for higher-earners. This could, for instance, mean a lower starting rate for the 40p rate (a policy pursued by George Osborne, who reduced it from £42,475 to £41,450 in last year's Budget) and the 45p rate. Another potential model is the measure introduced by Alistair Darling in the 2009 Budget. The-then Chancellor announced that the personal allowance would be tapered away at a rate of £1 for every £2 of income above £100,000 (meaning it is now withdrawn completely at around £116,000). George Osborne has wisely chosen not to reverse this brilliant act of stealth redistribution.  

 

Ed Miliband used his speech on the economy to call for the reintroduction of the 10p tax rate, funded by a mansion tax on houses worth more than £2m. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.