Ed Balls speaks at the Labour conference in Brighton last year. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour targets Osborne's 24 tax rises

The party says "It’s the same old Tory con – giving with one hand while taking away much more with the other."

One of the main messages that George Osborne will aim to send in his Budget tomorrow is that he believes in cutting taxes. Having increased the personal allowance to £10,000 (despite David Cameron arguing that the measure was unaffordable during the first 2010 leaders' debate) from £6,475 in 2010, he will attempt to claim ownership of this Lib Dem policy for the Conservatives when he announces that it will rise to at least £10,500 next year. The Chancellor will frame this as his response to the "cost-of-living crisis" (without using those words).

But as Labour has highlighted tonight, he also has a record of raising taxes. The party has issued a list of 24 levies increased by Osborne since 2010, including VAT, income tax age-related allowances ("the granny tax"), capital gains tax and inheritance tax. It calculates that taxes have risen by £24bn so far this parliament, with a further £3bn of increases to follow in 2014/15.

A party spokesman emphasised to me that Labour is "not opposed" to all of the tax rises (not least because some of them are progressive) but that it wanted to remind people that Osborne has "put taxes up significantly". The opposition wants voters to remember measures such as the VAT rise, rather than just the hike in the personal allowance, the key point being that most are worse off once all tax and benefit changes are taken into account. Here's the accompanying statement from shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie:

“We need a Budget that tackles the cost-of-living crisis which has left working people £1,600 a year worse off under the Tories.

“George Osborne wants to take credit for increasing the personal allowance, but hopes people forget his 24 Tory tax rises including the VAT hike. While millionaires have been given a huge tax cut the truth is millions of hard-working people have seen their taxes go up.

“It’s the same old Tory con – giving with one hand while taking away much more with the other. The VAT rise alone has cost families with children an average of £1,350 over the last three years. And the 24 Tory tax rises don't include the cuts to tax credits which have hit millions of working families.

“A Labour Budget this week would cut taxes for 24 million people on middle and lower incomes by introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax.

“We’d get young people off benefits and into work with a compulsory jobs guarantee, freeze energy bills, expand free childcare, get more homes built and cut business rates for small firms. We’d also reverse the £3 billion tax cut for the top one per cent of earners to get the deficit down in a fairer way.”

The Tories will no doubt cite Labour's attack as further evidence that it the party is unwilling to take the "tough choices" required to reduce the deficit (forecast to be £111bn this year). But Osborne's record will also increase the demands from his own side for some relief to be offered in the Budget.

Here's the list of 24 tax rises released by Labour.

The 24 Tory Tax Rises

 

1.    VAT increased – to 20 per cent from 2011

 

2.    Income Tax age-related allowances frozen and eligibility restricted (“Granny Tax”) from 2013-14

 

3.    Income Tax higher rate threshold cut to £42,475 in 2011-12

 

4.    Higher Income Child Benefit Charge introduced 2013

 

5.    National Insurance Contributions rates, limits and thresholds increased in line with CPI rather than RPI from 2012-13

 

6.    Income Tax higher rate threshold frozen at £42,475 in 2012-13

 

7.    Insurance premium tax increased – from 2011

 

8.    Capital Gains Tax increased – to 28 per cent for higher rate taxpayers from June 2010

 

9.    New Beer Duty introduced on high strength beers from 2011

 

10. Duty on hand-rolling tobacco increased by an additional 10 per cent from 2011-12

 

11. ISA subscription limit uprated in line with CPI rather than RPI from 2012-13

 

12. National Insurance Contributions changes to contracting-out rebates from 2012-13

 

13. Capital Gains Tax annual exempt amount frozen, 2012-13

 

14. Stamp Duty Land Tax increase to 7 per cent on properties over £2 million from 2012-13

 

15. VAT increases on a range of items, including caravans, sports drinks, and listed buildings from 2012

 

16. Duty on tobacco increased by RPI + 5 per cent in 2012

 

17. Income Tax higher rate threshold cut to £41,450 in 2013-14

 

18. Capital Gains Tax annual exempt amount increased in line with CPI rather than RPI from 2013-14

 

19. Income Tax cap on reliefs introduced from 2013-14

 

20. Pension tax relief restricted from 2014-15 21.

 

21. Income Tax higher rate threshold Increase capped at 1 per cent in 2014-15 and 2015-16

 

22. Capital Gains Tax annual exempt amount increase capped at 1 per cent, 2014-15 and 2015-16

 

23. Inheritance Tax threshold frozen in 2015-16

 

24. National Insurance Contributions ending of contracting-out rebates from 2016-17

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Leader: Trump and an age of disorder

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions.

The US presidency has not always been held by men of distinction and honour, but Donald Trump is by some distance its least qualified occupant. The leader of the world’s sole superpower has no record of political or military service and is ignorant of foreign affairs. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly showed himself to be a racist, a misogynist, a braggart and a narcissist.

The naive hope that Mr Trump’s victory would herald a great moderation was dispelled by his conduct during the transition. He compared his country’s intelligence services to those of Nazi Germany and repeatedly denied Russian interference in the election. He derided Nato as “obsolete” and predicted the demise of the European Union. He reaffirmed his commitment to dismantling Obamacare and to overturning Roe v Wade. He doled out jobs to white nationalists, protectionists and family members. He denounced US citizens for demonstrating against him. Asked whether he regretted any part of his vulgar campaign, he replied: “No, I won.”

Of all his predilections, Mr Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most troubling. When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that Russia was the “number one geopolitical foe” of the US, he was mocked by Barack Obama. Yet his remark proved prescient. Rather than regarding Mr Putin as a foe, however, Mr Trump fetes him as a friend. The Russian president aims to use the US president’s goodwill to secure the removal of American sanctions, recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and respect for the murderous reign of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He has a worryingly high chance of success.

Whether or not Mr Trump has personal motives for his fealty (as a lurid security dossier alleges), he and Mr Putin share a political outlook. Both men desire a world in which “strongmen” are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of external rebuke. Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence provides Mr Putin with every incentive to pursue his expansionist desires. The historic achievement of peace and stability in eastern Europe is in danger.

As he seeks reconciliation with Russia, Mr Trump is simultaneously pursuing conflict with China. He broke with precedent by speaking on the telephone with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and used Twitter to berate the Chinese government. Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s secretary of state nominee, has threatened an American blockade of the South China Sea islands.

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions. The US constitution, with its separation of powers, was designed to restrain autocrats such as the new president. Yet, in addition to the White House, the Republicans also control Congress and two-thirds of governorships and state houses. Mr Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment will ensure a conservative judicial majority. The decline of established print titles and the growth of “fake news” weaken another source of accountability.

In these circumstances, there is a heightened responsibility on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, Mr Trump. Angela Merkel’s warning that co-operation was conditional on his respect for liberal and democratic values was a model of the former. Michael Gove’s obsequious interview with Mr Trump was a dismal example of the latter.

Theresa May has rightly rebuked the president for his treatment of women and has toughened Britain’s stance against Russian revanchism. Yet, although the UK must maintain working relations with the US, she should not allow the prospect of a future trade deal to skew her attitude towards Mr Trump. Any agreement is years away and the president’s protectionist proclivities could yet thwart British hopes of a beneficial outcome.

The diplomatic and political conventions embodied by the “special relationship” have endured for more than seven decades. However, Mr Trump’s election may necessitate their demise. It was the belief that the UK must stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US that led Tony Blair into the ruinous Iraq War. In this new age of disorder, Western leaders must avoid being willing accomplices to Mr Trump’s agenda. Intense scepticism, rather than sycophancy, should define their response.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era