Margaret Hodge, anti-tax avoidance campaigner and Kendall backer. Photo: Getty Images
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Liz Kendall appoints Margaret Hodge to investigate Britain's £100bn tax relief bill

The Labour leadership has appointed the former head of the Public Affairs Committee and anti-tax avoidance campaigner Margaret Hodge to review the £100bn that Britain gives away in tax relief each year. 

Liz Kendall has announced a review into Britain's tax relief bill, potentially paving the way to massive reductions in the amount that the Treasury gives away in tax breaks.

The Labour leadership hopeful, who has described regaining the party's reputation for economic credibility as "the gateway to government", has appointed Margaret Hodge, the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee and a renowned tax avoidance campaigner, to look into the United Kingdom's £100bn annual tax relief. 

Although Kendall regards many of the tax breaks as vital to attracting investment to important sectors of the economy, including manufacturing and IT, she also believes that other reliefs are impossible to defend.

The Late Night Taxi Relief is a particularly egregious example: a tax break for people who work late hours and are given taxis home, paid for by their employers. Bankers and hedge fund traders regularly claim this tax break. But shift workers, night bus drivers, care workers and security guards are not entitled to claim the relief, as they are contracted to work unsocial hours. Between 80 to 90 per cent of the relief is claimed by city firms. 

The Kendall campaign also hope to highlight the rise in tax relief under the Conservative-led government, in contrast to the cuts to tax credits and the ongoing public sector pay freeze. Over the last five years, tax reliefs rose from 5.5 per cent of GDP to six per cent of GDP, while the cost of working age welfare fell from 5.7  per cent of GDP to 5.2 per cent. Even a reduction to 2010 levels would generation £10 billion for the Treasury, while the combined £100bn cost is greater than that paid to the NHS.)

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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