The Greens have kicked off their conference with a call for taxes on wealth and “dirty profits” to finance the transition to renewable energy – and a condemnation of Labour’s plans, unveiled last week, as woefully insufficient.
At the gathering in Harrogate, days after a Labour conference based heavily around clean power initiatives, the Green party in England and Wales – the Scottish Greens are separate – repeatedly stressed policy differences not just over renewables but also areas such as support for strikers and public ownership.
The party’s co-leaders, Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay, pledged in a joint speech that they would introduce an emergency tax package to fund renewable energy and a scheme for mass domestic insulation.
Enough is Enough is a mass movement resisting the cost of living crisis. It was launched earlier this year, and has grown rapidly. Over 500,000 people signed up to the campaign by the end of August and the group has held packed out rallies in cities across the country. On October 1, Enough is Enough held protests and actions in solidarity with striking workers in 50 towns and cities.
Enough is Enough has a set of five demands – delivering a real pay rise for workers, slashing energy bills, ending food poverty, ensuring decent homes for all, and taxing the rich. Recent polling from Survation found the group’s demands are popular with the public. Survation found 84 per cent support capping energy bills, 76 per cent support pay rising with inflation, and 72 per cent support increasing taxes on the rich.
A brief post today as I can’t spare the time.
The Liberal-Democrat-Conservatives’ party conference at Brighton has finished. The Labour party conference at Manchester has started. Ed Balls scored two goals (the second is disputed by claims that he faked a foul leading to a penalty and goal) and Andy Burnham scored one against the Press XI. Ed Miliband makes a speech suggesting the return of the 50% tax rate that the ConDems’ abolished and telling the banks to sort themselves out. Two policies that I agree with. Clearly, if the banks are too big to fail then they need to be made smaller. There is not a commitment to undo the ConDems’ privatisation and demolition of the NHS.
The super-rich, roughly 1 per cent of the working population – around 300,000 individuals – with incomes in excess of £3,000 a week, rising to £92,000 a week for the average FTSE 100 chief executive and soaring into the stratosphere beyond that, have contributed virtually nothing additionally since 2008-9 to pay for the costs of the bank bailouts.
The very poorest are being made to pay £18 billion through benefit cuts and are expected to have a further £10bn cut imposed on them shortly because of the current shortfall in debt reduction.
The rest of the population, as well as the poorest, are being made to suffer the effects of £81bn cuts in public expenditure, mainly through 300,000 or more public-sector job losses.
The super-rich meanwhile sail on untroubled by the pains of austerity and, according to the available evidence, are doing very well, thank you.
So why isn’t Labour raising the roof about this? Thirty years ago Labour would have done so, but not in today’s parliamentary party.
I raised this very issue at the last PMQs before the summer recess on July 18.
I asked Cameron: “Since the richest 1,000 persons in the UK have increased their gains by £155bn over the last three years of austerity, why doesn’t he charge capital gains tax on those gains which would raise over £40bn, enough without any increase in public borrowing to fund the creation of 1-1.5 million jobs over the next two to three years – a much better way to cut the deficit than the Chancellor’s failed policies?”
So why isn’t Labour running with the ball instead of letting Clegg get some acclaim?
UNISON, the UK’s largest union, has today written to Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, urging them to think again about stopping council tax benefits.
The union is warning that many low earners will be hit hard by the coalition’s decision to replace council tax benefit payments with a postcode lottery of local schemes at the same time as cutting councils’ budgets by 10%.
At a stroke the move will wipe out any gains the low paid would have received from the changes to personal tax allowances next April– a central part of the coalitions’ claims that it is helping working people on low wages.
Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:
“It is time for the Government to put its money where its mouth is. We hear a lot from Cameron and Clegg about helping low paid workers, but actions speak louder than words. For many hardworking families the changes to council tax benefits will wipe out any gains from changes to the personal tax allowances next April.
“Only this week, Nick Clegg called for the wealthy to pay more tax. And the coalition has claimed that it has taken real action to help low and middle income earners by changing personal tax allowances. But what the government is giving with one hand, it is taking away with the other. It is also helping to take away the incentive for carrying on working when the financial benefit is being cut.”
- UK Liberal-Democrat Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg suggests taxing the super-rich. The suggestion has unsurprisingly raised opposition from the Conservatives who are not afraid to call themselves Conservatives. This suggestion and Clegg’s opposition to a third runway at Heathrow should be considered in the context of Clegg’s recent and belated realization that he and the Liberal-Democrat Conservative party are hugely unpopular. A strange (and fawning) article that – suggesting that Clegg is after Bliar’s middle-class following. He’s even doing the right thing and employing driving analogies (although I have it on bad authority that he – similarly – can’t drive).
- UK Liberal-Democrat Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and UK Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron oppose a third runway at Heathrow consistent with their election manifesto pledges. Some Tory is pushing for a third runway and suggesting that Cameron should demonstrate if he is “a man or a mouse”. (eh?) Those of us that pay attention to UK politics no doubt suspect the influence of lobbying and money trousering.
- It is claimed that Larry, the number 10 mouser has caught a mouse. The mouse was not UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Watch out for rats in number 10 Larry.
It needed to be said and well done to Michael Meacher MP for saying it: the war of austerity is bogus, fake, manufactured. The solution is simple says Meacher: the filthy rich are getting filthier rich, tax them. Of course – if you’re filthy rich, you will not ever even notice being slightly less filthy rich.
Meacher’s article is well presented and appears very well researched. Meacher consistently shows competence and capablity and is willing to address the big, important issues – often even against his own party’s policies. We need far more politicians like Meacher.
According to the annual Sunday Times Rich List, the richest 1,000 persons now sit atop of £414bn, a sum more than three times the size of the entire UK budget deficit. The richest 1% of the population, about 300,000 persons with an income of more than £3,000 a week, are estimated to possess wealth of about £1tn. The richest 10% control wealth of about £4tn. To put these figures in perspective, Britain’s total GDP is £1.45tn.
Consider first that minuscule group in the stratosphere at the top, Britain’s thousand richest. In 1997 they held assets of £99bn, but they took full advantage of New Labour’s being “intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich” to nearly quadruple this to £336bn by 2010. That process of gargantuan enrichment now means that in order to get access to this exclusive club, one needs personally to command assets of at least £450m to get into the top 200, £750m to get into the richest 100, and no less than £1.4bn to break into the top 50.
It’s not only that the very rich have colossal wealth, they also overwhelmingly monopolise it. The richest 1% of the population own a quarter of total UK wealth, and the richest half control no less than 94% of total wealth. Ownership of land is even more skewed: 69% of it is owned by 0.3% of the population.
What, then, should be done? In the short term, the most feasible approach is to impose a capital gains tax charge at the current rate of 28% on the topmost layers of wealth, the £155bn gains amassed by the 0.003% over the last three years. That would yield £43bn, more than enough to generate the public investment to create 1.5 million jobs over the next two years. This could then steadily be extended to the remainder of the top 1%, which would provide the funds to widen and deepen the early recovery.
A wealth tax and land value tax, the details of which would have to be carefully drafted, should then follow in the medium term, and would achieve several purposes. They would resuscitate a public sector ravaged by the Tory ideological assault, curtail the grossest excesses of inequality that have disfigured the last three decades, and lay the foundations for an industrial and technological revival without which British living standards cannot be sustained. And all this without burdening the remaining 99% of the population.