Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and media columnist, has this to say about the new top income tax rate of 50 per cent, due to take effect from next April. He is pretty blunt:
So it is utterly tragic, at the end of the first decade of this century, that we are back in the hands of a government whose mindset seems frozen in the wastes of the 1970s. If Gordon Brown remains in power – and perhaps even if he does not – Britain’s top rate of tax will soar far above that of our most important global competitors. China, Germany and Australia are on 45 per cent maximum; Italy is on 43 per cent; Ireland on 41 per cent; France on 40 per cent; and America is on 35 per cent.
I would not mind so much if I thought this expedient was temporary, or that it would work. If the 50p tax was going to plug the hole in the nation’s finances, then it might be a good thing, and it would be right that the rich should pay a larger share. But even on the Government’s figures it is only due to raise £2.5 billion of the £700 billion required – and those estimates may be wildly optimistic. This tax is predicted to drive away at least 25,000 people; it may simply encourage more avoidance; it may actually cost money, not bring it in.
As he says, many of those whose lives are shaped by the shrivelled, dog-in-the-manger philosophy of collectivism will not give a damn. So what, they will say? And in the Daily Telegraph article that Boris Johnson writes, you can read a goodly number of such dismissive comments, from the sort of cretins – I use the word without apology – who seem driven more by hatred of the rich than by a serious desire to improve conditions generally.
But what interests me in the politics of this is how emphatic Mr Johnson is in saying what a disaster the top rate will be. He’s absolutely right, of course, and it is heartening that a senior figure from the opposition Conservatives should say so. I have my problems with Mr Johnson – he’s certainly no consistent advocate of small government – but by goodness, it is good that he is making this point and in this emphatic way. No doubt Mr Johnson will be told by the various unlovely allies of David Cameron to shut up, to not be “difficult”. (The same thing happened when he mentioned the Tory promise to hold a referendum on the EU Lisbon Treaty). Well, to hell with that.
It appears that an incoming Tory – or BlueLabour – government will not reverse this new, top rate in the first budget after any election. That would be a gross mistake. I hope Mr Johnson does not shut up on this issue. Of course, he also has to practice what he preaches in his own job.