Mr Clegg wages war on Britain's economic future
Published in: Daily Mail
Once upon a time, the Lib Dems were gently mocked as woolly, organic yogurt-eating sandal-wearers — harmless eccentrics who could be indulged because they would never get their hands on power.
Now, however, we can see that they are about as harmless to the body politic as strychnine — and the Conservative Party, apparently helpless in their thrall, is meekly helping administer the poison.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has launched a two-prong attack on the middle classes. First, he declared yesterday that the ‘top ten per cent’ — around three million people earning more than £50,500 a year — should face more taxes.
And in another move believed to be forced through by a gung-ho Lib Dem leader, the Coalition intends to target everyone with a home worth more than £1 million as a presumed tax-dodger.
A squad of computer and legal experts will comb through all the assets of such people — their property, savings and income. If this hit squad thinks the homeowners are not paying enough tax, it will have the power to knock on their front door and force them to account for every penny they are worth.
This is simply oppressive, offensive and utterly indefensible.
New wealth taxes — including possible changes to inheritance tax and the tightening of rules governing pensions — for people who earn just over the £50,500 limit would affect some teachers, senior nurses and top Army officers. These are not exactly the mega-rich.
Of course suspected tax evasion should be investigated and, where proved, punished. But this is not targeting tax evasion, which is a crime, but tax avoidance, which is perfectly legal.
The Business Secretary Vince Cable claims that the one shades into the other. Well, some tax avoidance schemes are so elaborate and convoluted they may well be deemed intolerable and should indeed be shut down.
The Lib Dems appear to be suggesting, however, that all tax avoidance is wrong. But there is no moral duty to pay more tax than you actually need to, and any attempt to pretend that there is would seem therefore to be coercive and itself immoral.
In fact, it is clear that this policy is not actually about tax avoidance at all. If that were the case, the Treasury would be setting its attack dogs on everyone who pays their cleaner or builder in cash — and on the builders and cleaners themselves.
No, the Lib Dems are not trying to catch up with tax cheats but rather to punish everyone they consider to be rich.
That’s why the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander insists: ‘The wealthiest did best in the boom years and it is right they should pay more now.’
In other words, this is nothing other than the old politics of envy — that sour and destructive doctrine which helped consign the Labour Party to oblivion until it finally realised that this was a recipe for suicide both for itself and the nation.
Yet now the Coalition has actually set up a special unit for fleecing the better-off. It’s called the Affluence Unit. Did you know such a unit existed? No, neither did I.
And just who is to be targeted by this Affluence Unit? It turns out it was set up to single out for harassment some 300,000 people who are said to be worth more than £2.5 million — and now it will widen its net to drag in another 500,000 people worth more than £1 million.
But the flaw in this ‘soak the rich’ policy is obvious. A £1 million or even a £2.5 million house does not necessarily mean its owner is wealthy at all (any more than is someone on £50,500 per year). It may simply mean that house prices have risen a great deal in recent times.
There are plenty of houses now worth this amount, in London and the South-East in particular, which are nevertheless pretty ordinary homes.
And their owners may have relatively modest incomes. Yet these are the people who may now find the tax inquisition on their doorsteps, feeling their financial collars.
Indeed, anyone with a £1 million-plus home will be treated as if they are suspected of tax-dodging just because they own it.
Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence? Or the equally fundamental doctrine that it is wrong to trawl for offences without due cause for suspicion?
And in any event, the better-off already do pay more in tax than those on more limited incomes.
But for the Lib Dems, it appears that anyone whose assets are worth more than they think reasonable is to be treated as an enemy of the people.
Thus Nick Clegg told his party’s conference: ‘I want to reward people who put in a proper shift, not those who sit on a fortune. People for whom a bonus means a few extra quid at Christmas, not a million-pound windfall.’
So on preposterous Planet Clegg, working is good — as long as you don’t actually make any money, other than ‘a few extra quid at Christmas’.
All those who work hard enough to buy a house whose value goes up a lot are to be given no credit for industriousness or prudence, but to be treated as if they had won the Lottery — which justifies the State grabbing some of this ‘windfall’ for itself.
And note also Clegg’s implicit assumption that the only worthy form of work is to be employed. Those who do the employing, however, are to be punished for making money.
This is an attack not on wealth but on wealth creators. But when the rich are targeted in this way — as we can see from France, where President Hollande has imposed the kind of swingeing taxes on the rich that the Lib Dems doubtless dream of inflicting upon Britain — the tax-take actually goes down, and the wealthiest flee the country.
Indeed, at precisely the moment that Britain urgently needs more wealth to be created if it is to struggle out of recession, the Coalition has set up a unit whose sole purpose is to target affluence as if it were some kind of disease to be stamped out.
This is not just the politics of envy — it’s the politics of sheer asinine imbecility. It really is so utterly bonkers that it can only be explained as driven by the zeal of a fanatic.
There was a whiff of this from Danny Alexander when, trying to show he was not as wealthy as David Cameron or George Osborne, he declared: ‘I have a two-bedroom flat in London worth £300,000 to £400,000 and a home in Scotland worth a bit less.’
Ah yes: the knee-jerk sanctimoniousness of the ideologue who draws an artificial line in the moral sand — only £400,000! — and then damns everyone beyond it.
Such posturing is even more distasteful since the Chief Secretary himself avoided paying capital gains tax when his London property was designated his main home for tax purposes, even though he described it as his second home to maximise his expenses claims as an MP.
As we all know, the Lib Dems desperately want to impose a ‘mansion tax’ on all homes worth more than £2 million, a move blocked by David Cameron. Targeting the ‘affluent’ who own homes worth more than £1 million looks very much like a sneaky way of getting this ‘mansion tax’ by the back door.
So is the Prime Minister going to roll over and let this happen? What on earth are Tories for if not to protect the country from this kind of socialist wrecking ball?
This war on affluence is nothing less than a war on prosperity and on Britain’s whole economic future.