Why is Clegg making the argument that the rich should contribute towards resolving the deficit in the interests of fairness, but not Labour? The super-rich, roughly the 1% 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 bail-outs. The very poorest are being made to pay £18bn 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, overwhelmingly 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, 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 PLP.
I raised this very issue at the last PMQs before the summer recess on 18 July. I asked Cameron: “Since the richest 1,000 persons in the UK have increased their gains by £155bn over the last 3 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 2-3 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?
Labour always had decent principles before it was corrupted by Blairism two decades ago when Mandelson informed us that “New Labour is intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich” which both he and Blair have used the Labour Party to become. Now inequality has bloated out of all proportion from a 20:1 ratio between average pay and top pay 30 years ago to 200:1 today. Yet Labour hardly mentions the subject now, and attacking the grotesque excesses (vast pay stitch-ups, enormous tax avoidance and triple bonuses) of the super-rich has become almost a no-go area.
What is so aggravating and ironic about this whole matter is that this is not natural Clegg territory at all. Clegg is an ‘Orange Book’ Liberal on the right side of his party, and the only reason he’s raising the issue now is that his and his party’s poll rating has now fallen so low that he’s desperate to show just a glimpse of radicalism to distinguish himself from the Tories. Why is Labour letting him get away with it?