OK, Anas. Let’s be fair, we all know it’s a typo, someone putting it together got it the wrong ways round. Maybe, though, it would be an idea to ensure a bit more careful proofreading of your leaflets. There is a certain carelessness in your team over that!
But, in any case, I don’t want to put you down at the moment. I really, really hope that you get the job.
Although you almost certainly won’t do the tax thing, whatever it is, because you have very little power to do anything at all with taxes, I have to agree with the sentiments behind it. Tax is a mess. It favours the rich. It needs reform.
The trouble is that I can quite honestly see that at least some in your party would love to be able to do it. But when the reshaping of the responsibilities of the Scottish parliament was being discussed, you guys in Labour did nothing to push for a wider range of tax-raising powers to be devolved…as was the case with so many other powers, including minimum wage (we think we have your measure on that). Even the Tories were prepared to devolve more than you were. You guys were pretty much against all of it.
So tax raising remains largely the prerogative of Philip Hammond, a Tory, and a rather rich one, who sees no need to change the system which massively favours the rich…ie him and his mates.
We all know that the Scottish parliament can increase income tax… indeed they already announced that, although they were not going to do that, they were going to resist the UK decision to take some tax off those earning over £45,000, described as the largest tax reduction since the time of Mrs Thatcher. So not a rise, but not a decrease for the well off either. And we’re pretty much hobbled every other way.
Alas, tax-free thresholds are not within the remit of the Scottish government or parliament, because that could make a huge difference to the worst off people. A tax-free allowance of maybe £16,000 a year would make a huge difference to those on poverty wages.
Of course, a country can be bold with tax reform, but it absolutely has to have a wide range of tax powers within which to work, to balance the need for spending, with the absolute right for people to keep as much of what they earn as possible. Of course, if folk earned a bit more and shareholders took rather less, that would help too.
In 1979, Mrs Thatcher made huge changes to the rate of income tax. Massive cuts for the rich, and small but noticeable cuts for the poor. The reforms reduced the income tax take by a massive amount.
But, of course, the money that was lost had to be found elsewhere. Hospitals still need running, schools have to operate. And Mrs Thatcher chose to almost double VAT to make up her shortfall. So VAT rose from 8% to 15%, a massive blow to people who had only the compensation of a few pence extra in their pay packets.
Income tax, VAT, fuel duty, alcohol duty, tobacco tax make vast sums of money. It is important to have the range of powers to be able to balance the needs of every member of our society.
I’m sure you’ll agree with that. I’m sure that you regret that your party was against almost every single proposal to devolve responsibility for taxes. And I’m sure that you will press the UK government for more freedom to make changes in the future.
As I said, I wholeheartedly wish you the very best of luck in your attempt to become branch leader.