We’re used to tax cuts being used as bribes to win voters. We’re used to Tory tax cuts being aimed at the well-off. What is truly audacious about Boris Johnson’s proposed tax cut is that it is aimed with such laser precision at the most important and valuable sector of British society today – 160,000 or so Conservative Party members, older, richer and benefiting from investment income, and the biggest winners in Boris’s great fiscal reform. Under Johnson they’ll have never had it so good. I doubt many could resist the temptation to vote Boris to be thousands of pounds a year richer. Could you?
You have to admire the sheer technical brilliance of it. Alone, advised only by his lovely companion/spin doctor and a few highly paid global political strategists, the inventive mind of Boris Johnson has engineered a fiscal measure that should deliver him the Tory leadership. Be clear about this: he is buying his way into Downing Street using taxpayers’ money, most of them of course being poorer than the average Tory activist. I don’t think we have witnessed that before. A new low in national life.
Yes, taking the top 10 per cent of taxpayers on more than £50,000 a year out of the top rate of tax is bad enough. They may well not “feel rich” as Boris says, but they are. Besides, they will pay some extra national insurance, so the tax cut isn’t as generous as first it seems – for those at work on salaries.
Where the Boris plan hits its target is those not at work. This is because NI isn’t levied – can’t be levied – on pensions, income from savings and investments, rents and the like. Thus the average retired or semi-retired Tory member – they are disproportionately older, richer and retired – with a decent occupational pension, a few dividends and some rent from a buy-to-let or two will receive a bumper tax cut. Plus, when sterling tanks again after a no-deal Brexit, the value of their international shares will rise. Bonanza.
Job done then? Not really. Boris says he will also fund his tax cut for rich old Tories with a vote in the leadership election with the money Philip Hammond has set aside to support the economy in the event of no deal. The money in other words is there to support the public finances when we go into a long, deep recession and people lose their jobs, tax revenues fall and dole payments rocket.
If it’s all been spent on Boris’ leadership campaign bribe, how then will we support the NHS, social security and state schools? I suppose that Tory party members try not to use them, so it makes no difference to them, but it would not be fair, would it?
So there it is then. British politics in 2019: a system so corrupt that it allows public money to be used for private political gain. A small and unpleasant taster of life under Bozzer.
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