The ‘snowfall of political opportunism’


Snow on campus earlier this evening

Amidst the chaos today as Britain continues its deep freeze in terms of both temperatures and of services, you may or may not have heard the faint whinings from the Shadow Chancellor, no less, on Sky News, criticising the government’s response to the snow in recent weeks and, indeed, hinting that the transport secretary should resign.

Let us recap; last winter, and indeed the winter before that, Britain experienced crippling shortages of grit and came dangerously close to the end of our gas reserves. This was under Labour.

Under the Coalition, both of these most critical resources are far better stocked, and, while I do still find it mortifying that as a supposedly developed country we seem so woefully incapable of dealing with any kind of weather beyond mid-temperature grey drizzle, be it rain which seems to cause instant floods, snow which causes instant chaos, or heat which causes outbreaks of environmental rhetoric, it is still perfectly obvious to anyone watching that this government is better prepared than the last.

Naturally, William Hague quickly dismissed Mr Johnson’s accusations in kind, but his comments on this ‘snowfall of political opportunism’ do strike a chord as to the nature of the Labour party since this government came to power, and it goes far beyond the weather.

Labour were happy to rack up the worst debts for a generation, yet complain, straight faced and with impunity, when the coalition pay it back. They were happy to introduce tuition fees and then seek to send 50% of the population to university, yet try to claim that they would never have raised the cap. They were happy to govern, for 13 years, without once seeking to introduce electoral reform, but then claim a sudden death-bed epiphany moment as the election slipped out of their grasp. And then they vote against holding a referendum on the issue after all. Having campaigned for one. Twice.

Labour’s willingness to attempt to rewrite history and feign ignorance at absolute historical truths can mean only one of two things; they are assuming the public to be fools, or they are in fact fools themselves, unable to remember what happened only a few months ago. I don’t know which i’d rather believe.

I hope those of you who have been travelling home from Birmingham over the weekend had a safe journey back, and for any of our readers still in Birmingham or anywhere else, I wish you all the best getting home for Christmas over the next few days.

Owen Williams

BUCF Publicity Officer

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About vwozone

BUCF Publicity Officer 2010-11, re-elected in new role of Publicity and Media Officer for 2011-12, and BUCF Vice President since May 2012. Conservative Party candidate for Selly Oak ward in Birmingham City Council elections 2011.

22 thoughts on “The ‘snowfall of political opportunism’

  1. “…straight faced and with impunity, when the coalition pay it back”

    The coalition hasn’t paid any debt back and there is no need to. The last time a Tory Chancellor paid back any debt was 1989.

    “…to introduce proportional representation…And then they vote against holding a referendum on the issue after all…”

    There has been no vote on proportional representation.

    “…can mean only one of two things; they are assuming the public to be fools, or they are in fact fools themselves…”

    Given the above errors, I think a third option is becoming a possibility.

  2. I was speaking figuratively in a way that read more nicely than ‘… when we reduce the structural budget deficit’. The point remains the same.

  3. While the point about proportional representation falls, perhaps I could point out that many of these complaints from Labour have been against the backdrop of Tory tax cuts. To be fair to the Lib Dems it would have been even worse with a completely Tory government: An inheritance tax cut of at least £1.6bn would have added insult ton injury.

  4. I’ll explain things simply for you. Governments need to raise revenue through taxation. People do not like paying taxes but with out them there would be lots and lots of problems for the country. Inheritance tax is a way of raising this revenue. It tends to affect a minority of people who are usually fairly wealthy: according to Deirdre Alden, about 60 people per constituency.

    While there may be a long running ideological argument over ‘the size of government’, the focus at the moment, we are told, is to cut the deficit. Your party claims that it has to make hellish choices over cuts but only a few months ago promised a tax cut that would help a relatively wealthy minority.

    It is not a case of liking any particular tax but a case of deciding where priorities are.

    It’s clear that the Tories complain about financial constraints when making cuts that affect ordinary people because it suits them. But when it comes to cuts in corporation tax or inheritance tax, George Osborne decides that the country can afford it. He’s already rolled out tax cuts that will cost the exchequer £8bn in the next financial year alone; 8 times the cut in child benefit.

    I know people might see me as a cynical person but what this chancellor is doing betrays the ideological crusade at the heart of the coalition. He promised a £1.6bn tax cut to the wealthiest 3,000 estates in the country, and then gave tax cuts to businesses amounting to over £5bn. He then turned to the rest of the country, wept a few crocodile tears and unveiled cuts to the schools budget and cuts to housing benefit among many others. And before anyone tries to defend individual cuts, David Cameron has already described many of these as ‘difficult decisions’ that will affect “our whole way of life”. Perhaps these decisions would have been a little easier if this government weren’t giving tax cuts to businesses.

    George Osborne is a man who faced with cutting a deficit, chose to promise tax cuts to the wealthy while already warning of difficulty for ordinary people. The Tories claim that every cut to the lives of all of us is inevitable while their Chancellor does everything he can to make them inevitable. It’s like the head of a family quitting his second job and second income while complaining about the cut backs he or she is having to make. It is something that people are more than justified in complaining about.

  5. I’m not going to get into an argument about inheritance tax because I believe I have done this already on this very blog and possibly with you.

    I do however stand by my belief that inheritance tax is wrong.

  6. Whether or not a particular tax is ‘wrong’ is not the issue. The problem concerns a government that is willing to make ‘difficult cuts’ that they claim they do not want to make while cutting taxes for businesses having also promised tax cuts for the richest.

    Do you also think that income tax or VAT is wrong? You haven’t defended your party’s position on cutting the deficit but instead have told us that you don’t like taxes. Thank you for your mind-blowing insights.

    On another issue: Do you think rail delays are a. good or b. bad ?

  7. Sarcastic as ever.

    I accept that some taxes, such as VAT and income tax, are necessary. I think the VAT rise is in fact a good idea.

    I just don’t think it’s fair that one’s loved ones should have to give a proportion of their inheritance to the Government. My father has paid enough tax in his life already – when he dies I don’t think it’s fair to expect me, who will already be feeling pretty rotten, to pay a substantial amount of money to the Government.

  8. So how would you pay for the abolition of inheritance tax in the context of reducing the deficit? And has it not occurred to you that the most obvious and fair adjustment would be to increase the income tax relevant to your father? I should point out at this point that I will also have to pay inheritance tax.

  9. In a sense I agree with Jack that cutting IHT at a time when we are making painful cuts elsewhere would send out a completely contradictary and morally wrong message to the public which would rightly come back to bite us in the backside. That said I am of the opinion that reducing rather than abolishing the IHT rate should certainly be an aspiration once the books are balanced and order is once again restored to the public purse.

    I personally find it unfair that money that the vast majority of people have fairly acquired, earned and paid tax on throughout their lives should be taxed at the extortionate rate of 40% in the event of an individuals death. I am not opposed to the principle of IHT per se, as it says in the Bible; “to those to whom much has been entrusted even more will be demanded”. In my opinion those who have the most should make one final contribution to the state on their death. But it is the fairness of the level I oppose and I personally want to see the level at somewhere between 20-25% rather than 40%.

    Aside from the justifications that the vast majority of those liable for IHT have worked hard and paid significantly higher tax on their wealth in order to acquire it and thus have the moral right to leave the vast majority of their wealth to whomever they so wish on their death, there is also a wider argument about responsibility which the current IHT system, in my opinion, discourages and undermines.

    Imagine 2 individuals; each have the potential, due to their incomes, to leave estates over the course of their lifetime valued at £600,000. One scrimps and saves almost every penny and makes sacrifices in their own personal indulgences and expenditure over their life because it is their wish to provide for their children and grandchildren in the event of their death. However their estate is £200,000+ in excess of the IHT threshold upon their death and thus is liable for IHT somewhere in the region of £100,000.

    The other however is extravagant and self indulgent, blows almost all the money they have acquired in their lifetime and thus their estate is not liable for IHT as it is under the threshold in the event of their death. The point is that both these individuals have made choices in their lifetime; both had the potential to leave estates of £600,000, one has chosen to be responsible and provide for their family and has made sacrifices in their own spending in order to do so. The other has been indulgent and despite earning the same amount as the first individual has preffered to live a more luxurious life with less sacrifice leaving a smaller estate on their death.

    Why is it fair that the one who has been responsible and made a concious decision to provide for their family, should have such a significant chunk taken away in tax on their death while the other gets away scot free because theyve chosen to spend on themselves?

    An option many are choosing now is to fritter, stash or give their money away before they die in order to avoid what they see as unfair IHT levels. It goes back to the Income Tax argument conducted in the 80’s; when the top rate of Income Tax was deemed too high (90+%), higher earners were dodging it and revenues were ironically lower than when the rate was cut to a more reasonable level.

    It is my opinion that, aside from the moral argument that people have the right to leave the vast majority of their estate to whomever they wish, IHT revenues will actually increase if estates are taxed at a fairer rate as individuals will be less inclined to fritter or give their money away in order to avoid IHT. I don’t think people are opposed to IHT in principle, in fact many people choose to make charitable donations on their death, what they are opposed to is the fact that they are seemingly being penalised for their responsibility and frugality which is something I believe needs addressing.

  10. I’m not going to get into a protracted debate about IHT here as my main objection concerns the policy contradictions that Dan has acknowledged. However I will briefly point out one or two things.

    “…the other however is extravagant and self indulgent, blows almost all the money they have acquired in their lifetime and thus their estate is not liable for IHT as it is under the threshold in the event of their death.”

    But that person will pay much more in VAT.

    Personally, I favour the restructuring of IHT to transform into a windfall tax on those who are inheriting.

  11. I thought you were going to use that one but its not quite the same. VAT fluctuates and its been between 15-20% and is charged on the total amount of a purchase not ALL purchases at once. IHT is a whopping 40% direct hit on the total sum of everything in an estate above the personal allowance threshold. Not a couple of extra quid paid here and there in VAT on items bought at the shops and as I said its subject to change. In a way Jack you’re making my point for me; I believe that the IHT should be charged at fairer rate, a rate similar to VAT; about 20%.

  12. Also Jack as far as I can see there is no policy contradiction in the coalition government regarding cutting the deficit and IHT. That is an aspiration yes but not appropriate for the present time. I personally feel that whilst the Tories might have campaigned on the policy of IHT cuts I sincerely doubt the policy would ever have materialised, certainly in this parliament for the reasons you have outlined. But I hasten to add Jack; noone has actually suggested the coalition should be cutting IHT now. Helen and myself are merely stating our moral objection to IHT and our desire that a future Conservative government, in better economic circumstances, would do something to address this issue.

  13. Because its your money Max. Money youve earned and paid tax on all your life. You’ve paid your dues. If you are a thrifty person who has taken the concious decision to save and provide for your family in the event of your death why should you be penalised? As I highlighted above 2 people have the potential to earn equally as much in their life, both pay their taxes and acquire their money fairly, one decides to blow the lot meaning they aren’t liable for the IHT the other decides to save and provide for their family.

    That is a concious decision that both individuals have taken. Why should one ben penalised for chosing not to spend their money? If IHT gets much higher people will simply avoid paying by giving their money away before they die as some currently do and therefore the whole system will be pointless as IHT revenues will fall substantially because people simply will do what they can to avoid paying it because they will be morally outraged by it. However if we tax estates at a fairer more reasonable rate I believe overall revenues will increase because people will be less inclined to dodge the tax. Its all about fairness max. The current system is not fair.

  14. Exactly Dan. It’s my money, not a single penny will have been earned by my children, or children’s children and children’s….oh, you get the idea. If they are to receive my money I see that as intrinsically unfair to the starving thousands in Africa for example or any of the poverty stricken regions of the UK.

    And yes people will give away there money before they whatever the threshold level, but what about the unfortunate unexpected deaths.

  15. That isn’t for you or me to decide. If you want to leave your money to “the deprived regions of the UK” or “Africa” go ahead, be our guest. But people who have earned and paid tax on their money have a right to choose what they do with it, whether they save it or whether they spend it. The government should not penalise them for choosing to leave it to their children. I assume that any inheritance you recieve from your grandparents, parents and others will be given to Africa? Or any money you leave behind will be donated to the deprived regions of the UK? Somehow I think once youre in the situation yourself you will think vveerryy differently…

  16. Increase the income tax for my father!? He already gives half of everything he earns back to the Government he works for!

    I may have been a bit OTT – I understand that IHT cannot simply be removed altogether. I’m in favour of what Dan suggested though – 20% rather than 40%.

  17. “I believe that the IHT should be charged at fairer rate, a rate similar to VAT; about 20%.”

    And would you think it fair to charge that on the entire sum and not just inheritance over a certain threshold?

    “…the Tories might have campaigned on the policy of IHT cuts I sincerely doubt the policy would ever have materialised…”

    So we can put that down as a broken promise? David Cameron was lying was he?

    “Because its your money Max.”

    That applies to any tax. As hladavies has brilliantly explained, people don’t like paying tax.

    “…the concious decision to save and provide for your family in the event of your death why should you be penalised?”

    Has it not occured to you that most people haven’t had the option of accumulating more than £325,000 of personnal wealth. Median post-tax pay in the UK is around £19,000 a year (without a student loan or pension contributions.) You’re starting to sound like you haven’t the faintest clue how normal people live. And you talk about people ‘blowing it all’ while forgetting that a lot of people don’t ‘have it all’ in the first place. Those people who ‘blew it all’, (what a stupid expression) paid VAT on many items including postcards, Fish and chips, beer, fuel, CDs, labels, cereal bars, soap and toilet paper. Why should they be ‘penalised’?

    “people who have earned and paid tax on their money have a right to choose what they do with it, whether they save it or whether they spend it.”

    So you’re still against VAT. If they have no option but to spend it, they pay tax which disproportionately hits the poor.

    “I’m in favour of what Dan suggested though – 20% rather than 40%.”

    So cutting child benefit won’t cut the deficit at all but instead will finance a tax cut affecting the 3,000 richest estates in the UK. I’m not quite sure that we’re all in this together.

  18. I’ve reconsidered this and I now think EVERYBODY should pay inheritance tax – scrap the threshold completely. This is the only way that this can be fair. I believe this would enable the rate to be substantially lower.

    “Has it not occured to you that most people haven’t had the option of accumulating more than £325,000 of personnal wealth.” – many people in the UK are homeowners and with house prices still high, I think a significant % of the population would have at least £325,000. I can’t find any stats to support this but please feel free to find some to contradict me.

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