Letters: Rich or poor, we will have to pay

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Hamish McRae’s informative article “Soak the rich..?” (27 September) demolishes the rhetoric not only of the Lib Dems, but also Labour politicians. Bluntly stated: if you want a welfare state and free education you’re going to have to pay for it through tax increases. And the only way to do it realistically is by raising income tax.

The present problem arises from the Thatcher government, which tried to kill two birds with one stone: win elections by lowering income tax and make the public sector smaller. Labour on its return to power followed the same policy, reducing income tax to 20 per cent. Since public spending levels were little reduced, even a D maths pupil could predict massive public debt.

Phil Nicholson


Dominic Lawson (25 September) uses carefully chosen figures to try to persuade us that the rich are already paying more than enough tax. But the problems he describes are nothing to do with punitive tax rates.

He cites California as a particular problem, and this is no surprise, because California is one of the most unequal societies around and the issues he describes are simply the result of the vast gulf between the super-rich and the rest of us. With no change in tax rates or allowances, the proportion of income tax paid by the extremely rich increases as incomes become more unequal.

The way to reduce the proportion of tax paid by the rich is for wage rates at the bottom to be increased (or reduced at the top) so that income differentials are reduced.

Similarly, as inequality grows, more and more people earn less than the (mean) average income. So more and more people become net beneficiaries of the state. It’s exactly what a pupil doing GCSE sums would expect. The answer is to reduce income and wealth inequalities and then the proportion of taxes paid by the top 1 per cent will decline automatically.

Is this what he is calling for? No, I thought not.

David Williams


We have heard so much about tax evasion by large corporations. News items are now appearing on the ones that do pay all the tax they should to support this country’s public services (24 September). But we only know about those that make headlines.

A simple way of instilling confidence in a UK-based company’s commitment to this country would be for HMRC to authorise the use of a logo on company stationery that tells people that the tax that should have been paid has been paid – maybe something like a pound sign with a tick superimposed. Consumers might soon start to exercise preference for those who displayed the tick. I think it would catch on.

Patrick Cosgrove

Chapel Lawn, Shropshire

When Labour fought the Tory cuts

Steve Reed (Letter, 28 September), the current leader of Lambeth Council, distorts history to disguise his complicity with ConDem cuts in spending and services. Reed says that Lambeth should not resist the cuts, which it doesn’t, but instead “find practical ways to limit the pain”. Well, in the last two years Lambeth has axed 600 jobs.

It is ludicrous to suggest that the current financial problems facing Lambeth Council are due to the defiance against the Thatcher government’s rate-capping over 25 years ago. We know what revenue was allegedly lost by Labour councillors not making the rate in April 1985. It was less than £300,000. The councillors were surcharged for that amount and with the help of the labour movement it was fully repaid.

he Thatcher government paid both Lambeth and Liverpool, whose councillors had rejected rate-capping, additional funds so that budgets could be set. Resistance, far from being futile, mobilised communities and forced the government back.

No Lambeth Labour councillor, past or present, has been accused of corruption. It was the outsourcing and privatisation of council services, subsequently carried out by both Tory and New Labour councillors, that opened the door to Lambeth being ripped off by the private sector.

The cuts are the result of a crisis in the capitalist banking and economic system. So why should local communities pay for a crisis they did not create? To say that resistance is wrong, as Reed does, is to send out the message that Labour agrees with the ConDems’ austerity policies. Labour councillors working with their communities, trade unionists and other activists, should form local assemblies where resistance can be organised and alternatives to austerity worked on. That would be far better than running up the white flag as Reed suggests.

Ted Knight

Leader of Lambeth Council, 1978-1986, London SE19

Faith and the virus of hatred

Adrian Hamilton’s World View (21 September) rests on a remarkable presumption: that Tony Blair is unaware of the complex political dynamics of the current situation in the Middle East. Even the most anti-Blairite of journalists might suspect that someone who had played a leading role in brokering peace in Northern Ireland and is Quartet Representative for Israel/Palestine might not have a monocausal explanation of the problems.

The point being made was that religion matters. When conflicts become “religionised”, PLO to Hamas for example, the religious dimension becomes important. The virus of hatred has religion as one of its several vectors. And all faiths need the courage to combat their pathogens and support when they do so.

Ian Linden

Director of Policy, Tony Blair Faith Foundation, London W1

Pupils who lose out

It is not just bright children who can lose out by taking GCSEs early (report, 20 September). The Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (AC ME) investigated early entry last year and concluded that it had a negative impact on almost all students’ mathematical education.

The adverse impact of what amounts to an early experience of “failure” if they do not achieve their full potential and, in some cases, fail to secure a grade C, can leave both the most and least able children demotivated.

Neither the educational needs of the pupil, nor the employment needs of the nation, which benefits from a mathematically confident and literate workforce, are served by blanket early entry. The pitfalls of rushing students through mathematical content and related exams, rather than allowing them to build a solid foundation of further study through developing deeply connected concepts, are relevant to the development of the National Curriculum and the English baccalaureate certificates. ACME will be producing advice on how to support young, able mathematicians within months.

Professor Steve Sparks

Chair, The Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, The Royal Society, London SW1

The issue of brighter schoolchildren being failed by teachers due to their inclusion in mixed-ability classes was sadly always going to be the case. With 30-plus students in a classroom, teachers will focus on the individuals who require extra help. Those who seem to be getting on in their education will unfortunately get less attention.

We must start to look at class sizes throughout all state schools. The model of private schools could be replicated in some form.

Mark Cummins

Steyning, West Sussex

Canada not so dull after all

I was impressed by your coverage of the “other” special relationship, that between Canada and the UK (25 September). It has long seemed that the thing that Canada and Britain have most in common is their fascination with the United States.

Canadians often appear to embrace the US in a juvenile assertion of independence against the parent country, with which Canada has long had an awkward relationship. And when the British look west, they see only the US ; Canada hardly exists in the British collective consciousness, for which it is a veritable synonym for dullness compared to the exciting excesses of their rebellious offspring, the US.

So it is gratifying to see these two nations with so much in common taking steps towards a more mature relationship.

Graeme Garrard


Banks finally called to account

The warning from Martin Wheatley of the Financial Conduct Authority that bad bankers will go to prison is laughably overdue (1 October). Those responsible for damaging our country should have been facing the music some time ago.

Every pound diverted from the public purse to the rescue of the banks should be repaid to the taxpayer as costs owed for criminal damage. Our government sold Northern Rock before it could repay the taxpayer. It seems that normal standards of fairness and responsibility do not apply to banks and governments, and that it is we ordinary people who have to pay money back and face the consequences. No wonder the government see us as plebs.

Ian McKenzie


Blue treasure

Further to Mark Leftly’s interesting piece (29 September) on Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, for centuries the country was the only source of a beautiful blue mineral not actually mentioned in the article. All the world’s lapis lazuli came from Afghanistan, from the gems in Egyptian scarabs to the ultramarine used by Renaissance painters.

Ian Craine

London N15


David Cameron, addressing the UN on 26 September, said “the blood of these Syrian children is a terrible stain on the reputation of this UN”. The same can be said about Nato, who use weapons that are known to cause “collateral damage” to children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Christopher Holden

London W4

Do I know him?

Why could anyone expect Cameron to know Thomas Arne or Magna Carta, since neither of them have paid to dine at No. 10 or even contributed to the Tory Party.

David Monkman

Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

Inside politics

It is hilarious that Owen Jones’s response (1 October) to the malaise of a political establishment “full of politicos who have never worked outside the Westminster bubble” is to work with a think tank.

Ian Partridge