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29 November 2010

Did Margaret Thatcher practise the “politics of envy”?

She did – if you believe the Tory-supporting columnist Matthew d’Ancona.

By Mehdi Hasan

Writing about Ed Miliband’s support for the 50p tax rate in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, Matthew d’Ancona observed:

The symbolism of the state taking half his earnings once he reaches a certain level – as an act of social justice rather than fiscal necessity – could not be clearer. This is not progressive taxation. It is the politics of envy reborn.

Right-wingers – in particular, Telegraph columnists – get rather worked up about top rates of tax and, in particular, Labour’s 50 per cent tax on earnings above £150,000. Writing in the Telegraph in November 2009, Boris Johnson claimed:

The 50p tax is not far, in its political motive, from Stalin’s assault on the kulaks.

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Hmm. The top rate of income tax for nine of Margaret Thatcher’s 11 years in office stood at 60p – until, that is, her chancellor Nigel Lawson cut it to 40p in 1988.

Was the Iron Lady guilty of practising the “politics of envy”? Was she a closet Stalinist?

Perhaps low-tax advocates on the right should tone down some of their rhetoric, given their own heroine’s record in office.