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Boris ruffles his colleagues’ feathers on tax – excellent news

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.

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10 comments to Boris ruffles his colleagues’ feathers on tax – excellent news

  • Sam Duncan

    it is only due to raise £2.5 billion of the £700 billion required

    Slightly off topic, but recently, to try and get some kind of context on these unimaginable figures, I’ve taken to converting them into the number of days they would keep the government going at current rates of expenditure.

    £2.5bn is roughly a day and a half.

  • Andrew Duffin

    If you think an incoming Tory government will reverse this measure after ANY election, then I fear you do not understand Mr. Cameron.

    They really are just the same.

  • Laird

    ” . . . and it would be right that the rich should pay a larger share.”

    I’m tired of reading this sort of throwaway line from supposed allies. It’s not “right” at all. Where is the moral case for increased thievery of the better off? They never make it, because it cannot be made. Theft is theft, regardless of the financial circumstances of the victim. I suppose something of a case can be made for shared misery in times of distress, but only for equally shared misery. Heaping a disproportionate share on one group is fundamentally immoral.

    This type of statement seems to be a thoughtless nod in the direction of conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “conventional wisdom” is neither.

  • Laird

    ” . . . and it would be right that the rich should pay a larger share.”

    I’m tired of reading this sort of throwaway line from supposed allies. It’s not “right” at all. Where is the moral case for increased thievery of the better off? They never make it, because it cannot be made. Theft is theft, regardless of the financial circumstances of the victim. I suppose something of a case can be made for shared misery in times of distress, but only for equally shared misery. Heaping a disproportionate share on one group is fundamentally immoral.

    This type of statement seems to be a thoughtless nod in the direction of conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “conventional wisdom” is neither.

  • “…but by goodness, it is good that he is making this point and in this emphatic way.”

    No it is not Jonathan – it is counter productive. Boris Johnson is an utter boob; a public figure of fun. He does angry very well for the cameras, but what are his political principles exactly? He would be better off going back to being a clown on HIGNFY. He was excellent at that – and I would even pay good money to see him do it again.

  • tdb

    On the bright side, he is a constant source of amusement for all sides of the political spectrum; because he is a boob, even the left loves him. He has that lovable-oaf kind of personality.

  • Laird quotes, partially and IMHO far to selectively:

    … and it would be right that the rich should pay a larger share.

    The fuller context is:

    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.

    It is quite clear that Boris Johnson is against the tax, on the grounds that it may well not raise more money for the exchequer, and on the grounds that it will otherwise damage the economy. Given these, he indicates that it should be at most, a temporary tax.

    Now, I do agree that Boris’ wording is somewhat open to misinterpretation, particularly that he supports incremental tax rates and the 50% tax rate. However, his main thrust is against this tax increase. As the man is known to be somewhat careless on detail, as well as serially tactless, I very much hope that we can see him avoid in the future such possible interpretations of support for tax increases, especially if his main thrust is then how we should be taxed, rather than how we should not be taxed.

    Like several Samizdatistas and others of their commentariat, I support strongly the concept of a flat rate income tax, with a tax-free band significantly larger than at present in the UK. However, I would point out that even that highly desirable improvement in income tax does cause “the rich to pay a larger share”. With such a system, the proportion of tax to income (for all those earning more than the personal allowance) is given by r*(i-a)/i, where ‘r’ is the single tax rate, ‘i’ is the total income and ‘a’ is the personal allowance. This proportion of tax paid to income can be ‘simplified’ to r-r*a/i, which clearly increases as income increases, from 0% with an income of ‘a’ to ‘r’ with an infinite income.

    My case for a flat rate tax is that it is at least partially fair in taxing people according to their economic footprint (also somewhat proportional to what they get back from taxpayer funds), after the costs of a minimal civilised existence have been allowed for. It is not that the rich pay less (or more) as a proportion of their income, neither absolutely nor relative to now.

    As for Boris, despite his many imperfections (and perhaps partly because of them), actually he is rather popular for a politician, and is IMHO much more on the side of the angels than most. Heavy fire would be better directed elsewhere, at least for the time being, so I’m with Johnathan on this one.

    Best regards

  • Wolfie

    Although I believe Boris is sincere when he writes in opposition to this tax, what is more surprising is that he has popped up again with comments that will infuriate Cameron’s team, so shortly after being slapped down over Lisbon.

    I suspect this will not do him any harm with potential large donors for his re-election campaign in London and means he would have the resources to stand a a independent should Team Cameron decide to strike him from the Tory ticket.

    This leaves him free to build “Brand Boris ” and still gives him a shot at the Conservative leadership after Cameron. Whether that would be a prize worth having is an exercise left for the reader.

  • how about a flat sales tax? those well off will pay more, but only on what they spend, money saved up will not be taxed nobody will be disproportionatly hit… and the taxman only gets your money after you’ve had it rather than taking it before you even see it.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Cameron (and his little sidekick Mr O.) has already said that a Conservative party government would not reverse the self defeating (self defeating because it will REDUCE revenue over time) 50% tax rate.

    That was the point of J.P.s article – that the real target of Boris Johnson was not Mr Brown, it was Mr Cameron.

    It is the same with any attack on government control of the pay and bonus payments of people who work for banks.

    That was Conservative party policy weeks before it was Labour party policy – Mr O. was out explaining to the BBC and Guardian how preventing banks paying one billion to the staff meant they would have “ten billion” to lend to “small business” (that is it – one billion equals ten billion, and G.O. is going to tell the banks which enterprises to lend the money to as well).

    One could attack Labour’s demented “loan support schemes” – accept that Cameron and G.O. want bigger ones.

    And one could attack the support of the E.U. Constitution (the so called Treaty of Lisbon) by the Labour government – accept that Mr Cameron and G.O. now support that as well.

    Cameron and side kick seem determined to do the impossible – to save Gordon Brown.

    There cunning plan is to give people who dislike the Labour government no reason to come out and vote.

    They are determined to adopt all Mr Brown’s policies – from wild credit money expansion, right to insane dreams of the state “remaking society”.

    Yes “the state remaking society” by subsidizing private groups and getting them to serve state objectives in reshaping society.

    No that was not Mr Brown – that was Mr Cameron to the lovely Guardian newspaper.