Why Labour will reverse Cameron’s top rate tax cut

The latest figures from HMRC show that people earning over £150,000 paid almost £10bn more in tax in the three years when the 50p rate was in place. We need to get the deficit down in a fair way.

The Tories like to fix the facts to fit the story they want to tell. Only yesterday we saw them desperately pull together dodgy figures to make the ludicrous claim that people are better off under them, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It only served to show just how out of touch they are.

It’s similar to what they’ve done when it comes to the 50p tax rate. David Cameron and George Osborne are desperate to be able to claim the 50p tax raised as little money as possible. That makes it easier for them to justify giving a tax cut to millionaires at a time when ordinary families are facing a cost-of-living crisis. But the decision to cut the 50p rate was a highly political decision, driven not by the evidence but by David Cameron and George Osborne’s desire to give the richest people in our country a tax cut.

The Tory-led government’s own assessment claims the cost of cutting the rate to 45p, excluding all behavioural changes, was over £3bn. To justify the tax cut the Tories argue that most of this potential revenue would be lost as a result of tax avoidance.  But crucially, the scale of the behavioural impact has been decided by Ministers, not HMRC. And latest figures from the HMRC show that people earning over £150,000 paid almost £10bn more in tax in the three years when the 50p rate was in place than was estimated at the time when the government did its assessment back in 2012.

The Tories also claim that tax revenues rose after they cut the top rate of tax. But the ONS and OBR have both said that many of the highest earners moved income and delayed bonuses by a year after George Osborne’s 2012 Budget in order that they could benefit from the lower top rate of tax. This shifting of income will actually have cost the Treasury millions of pounds in lost revenue.

Labour has been clear that when the deficit is high and ordinary families are seeing their real incomes fall, it simply can’t be right for David Cameron and George Osborne to give the richest people in the country a massive tax cut. So the next Labour government will make changes to create a fairer tax system. That means cracking down on tax avoidance, scrapping the shares for rights scheme and reversing the tax cut for hedge funds. We want a lower 10p starting rate of tax, which would help make work pay and cut taxes for 24 million people on middle and lower incomes.

And in order to ensure that those with the broadest shoulders bear a fairer share of the burden, Ed Balls has today announced that the next Labour government will reverse the Tory top rate tax cut in the next Parliament while we are finishing the job of getting the deficit down.

This is a fairer way to reduce the deficit. And the Tories will have to explain why the richest one per cent of earners should get a tax cut while tough times continue for everyone else.

Shabana Mahmood is shadow exchequer secretary

David Cameron speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday. Photograph: Getty Images.

Shabana Mahmood is Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood.

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One Day Without Us reveals the spectre of Britain without immigration

Imagine a country without its NHS workers, its artists and even its consumers. That's why immigrants are striking today. 

What’s the best way of making yourself heard in politics? Protesting in the street, or contacting the media? Writing to politicians? A badge?

One option, of course, is to walk out - and give people a chance to recognise what they’d be missing if you weren’t there. In the labour movement, that’s long been an option – a last-case option, but an option nevertheless – when your contribution isn't being recognised.

A strike is a tit-for-tat negotiation and a warning shot. “I’ll work properly when you employ me properly”, it says, but simultaneously: “Here’s what you’d lose if I stopped”. Done right, the worker’s absence can shift the power balance in their favour.

Normally, people strike according to their role, in pursuit of certain conditions – the tube strikes, or last year’s teacher's strike.

Yet there is also a long and rich history of walk-outs whose terms are broader and boundaries hazier. One of the most famous is surely the 1975 Women's Strike, in Iceland, during which 90 per cent of the country's women refused to participate in either paid or unpaid work.

In 2016, the formula was repeated in Poland, where women went on strike to protest against a draconian change being proposed to the country's already-strict abortion laws. (It worked.)

Immigrant strikes, too, have a history. In 2006, for instance, a coalition of Los Angeles Catholic groups, unions and immigration reform groups proposed a boycott in opposition to a bill which, among other things, called for new border security fences to be built between America and Mexico. (Ahem.)

The action grew to become a national event, and on May 1, the “Great American Boycott” took place, with immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere leaving work, skipping school and refusing to buy or sell goods.

Now, with Donald Trump in the White House and Brexit looming, some have decided it’s time for another strike. Enter “One Day Without Us”.

Today, immigrants here in Britain will strike not for pay conditions or holiday allowances, but for basic recognition and respect. Across the country, businesses will close and immigrants will leave work, many of them to take place in alternative actions like rallies or letter-writing campaigns.

The name of the protest pulls no punches. This, it says, is what it would be like if we all went away. (Subtext: “like some of you want”.)

Because – and let’s be honest here – it’d be bad. In hospital this summer, I was treated by migrants. After 24 hours in NHS, I took a count, and found that only about one in five of the staff who had treated me were identifiably English. Around 4.6 per cent of NHS staff nationally are from the EU, including 9 per cent of doctors. Immigrants clean buildings, make our food, and provide a whole host of other vital services.

One Day Without Us, then, could do Britain a huge favour - it provides us with a quick preview function before anyone ups and leaves for good, taking the heart of our health service, or our food supplies, with them.

In recognition of this, some businesses are actively giving their workers the day off. One 36-year-old owner of a support services company, for instance, is giving her staff a paid holiday.

“Not all my colleagues are taking up the offer not to come in”, she explained. “Some, both British and foreign-born, would prefer to work. That’s fine, I wanted to give colleagues the freedom to choose.

 “It will cause some inconvenience and I’ve had to explain to clients why we aren’t offering all our services for one day, but I feel doing this is the only way to show how much this country relies on migrants. I may be a businesswoman, but I’m a human being first, and it hurts my heart to see how foreign-born colleagues are being treated by some people in the current political climate."

The woman, whose staff is 65 per cent foreign born, has asked her company not to be identified. She’s heard her staff being abused for speaking Polish.

Of course, not everyone is able to walk out of work. I write this from Chicago, Illinois, where last week activists participated in an American predecessor to One Day Without Us called “Day Without Immigrants”. Type “Day Without Immigrants" into Google followed by the word "Chicago" and you will find reports of restaurants closing down and citizens marching together through the city.

But search for just "Day Without Immigrants", and the top stories are all about participants being fired.

One Day Without Us, then, encourages any form of engagement. From human chains to sessions during which participants can write to their MP, these events allow immigrants, and supporters, to make themselves known across the country.

Businesses and museums, too, are involved. The Tate, for instance, is offering free tours showing visitors artworks created or influenced by migrants, showing Londoners which of the paintings that they’ve seen a dozen times only exist because of immigration.

Because paintings, like people, come from everywhere, whether or not you remember. Britain is a mongrel country, and so its art and culture are as mongrel as its workforce: a persistent thread through the country’s history.

We risk a lot forgetting this. At its best, assimilation provides a way of integrating without forgetting one’s own unique identity. In a world where immigrants risk threats or violence, however, invisibility can be the best option. For some, it is better not to be recognized as an immigrant than be abused as one.

Those of us who don’t risk threats have a duty to recognise this. I dislike the glibness of “we are all migrants” – maybe, technically, but we’re not all getting slurs shouted at us in the high street, are we? Still, I also don’t like anyone forgetting the fact that their existence, in all probably, is contingent on someone once being given clemency in a place that was their own. The movement of people is woven into the fabric of society.

Of course, it is impossible to say how successful One Day Without Us will be, or how many people’s lives will be directly affected. But I hope that, even as a gesture, it works: that people think of what would be missing from their lives without immigration.

We ignore it at our peril.

You can view all the One Day Without Us events on the organisers’ website, or contribute to a fund to support businesses which are closing for the day here.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland