As parliament’s summer recess begins this week, it’s clear the Labour party is adamant not to disappear like it did during its significantly quiet summer last year. It is difficult for the opposition to make many headlines – or at least positive ones – during the silly season, but it looks like Ed Miliband and his top team have a number of proposals up their sleeve they’ve saved for the summer months.
An example of this is the plan to be announced today for new taxes on the Premier League and sports betting firms. The aim is to boost grassroots football and other sports at that level.
Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman will be announcing these proposals, as well as a call to reintroduce two hours of PE weekly for all primary school children, a policy scrapped by the coalition.
Although the party is bound to face criticism for being “same old Labour”, introducing more taxes and dressing them up as policies, but this matters little because that criticism is likely to be levelled by those who wouldn’t be voting Labour anyway.
The populist angle of these proposals is more significant. Tapping the wealth of the Premier League and using the proceeds – the Times reports it could raise £275m from the tax – for developing grassroots football will be popular among ordinary sports fans, who have been hit by rising ticket prices for Premier League games.
This would go alongside the plan for a levy on sports betting firms’ gross profits in order to fund community sports facilities and raising money to help support people to fight gambling addictions. This type of levy reflects one that already exists in horseracing, which raised £82m this year.
So the Conservatives’ dismissal of these plans as a “short-term gimmick” doesn’t really hold water. Labour has clearly figured out that there is serious money to be made here, and redistributed among communities and individuals, as well as successful precedents already in place.
It is also a shrewd move towards encouraging exercise among a population that we repeatedly hear is becoming more obese and more sedentary. Rather than introducing “sin taxes”, say on fizzy drinks or fast food, it is a positive method of promoting a healthier lifestyle. So even if Labour’s detractors will tut at the idea of a new tax, it can’t be accused of nannying. And that’s more than you can say for the coalition, which has been prevaricating embarrassingly over plain-packaging for cigarettes and minimum unit pricing for alcohol.