Thursday, April 24, 2008


‘D’oh! Conned Again!’ Say the World’s Stupidest MPs

When Gordon Brown’s made such an almightily stupid mess of his tax ‘triumph’, it doesn’t say much for the nous of his backbenchers that even he can hoodwink them. Again. Last year they cheered him when he announced a middle-income tax cut that was going to win them the Election That Never Was. The Liberal Democrats immediately noticed this was paid for by doubling tax on the lowest earners, but Labour MPs took 379 days to spot the problem and mount a very late rebellion when it became obvious it would lose them the Election That Actually Is Next Week. Yesterday ‘rebel leader’ Frank Field, who the likes of the Daily Hate Mail and the Tories always tell us is a genius – bit of a clue there – dropped his rebellion when he was promised compensation for those who’ve lost out… And, to the surprise of brilliant Mr Field and his Labour fellows, it turns out this stupid, spineless shower cheered yesterday without reading the small print. How completely unlike last year, when they, er, cheered without reading the small print.

I thought they were stupid beyond belief for falling for it once. How mind-bogglingly useless do Labour MPs have to be to fall for the same trick all over again?

Prisoners of Stupidity

In half an hour on ITV4 (again at 3, and you can catch episodes on Wednesday evenings at 8, too) there’s another episode of the spy / political / drug-crazed thriller The Prisoner, all set within a mysterious Village full of absurd rituals, where an appearance of democracy is a sham because it’s all fixed behind the scenes, where you’re never sure whether anyone means what they say, and when just when you think you might have got somewhere, you always find yourself back exactly where you started. Oh, and there’s a near-infinite supply of Number Twos. Similarities to the Westminster Village aren’t difficult to come by.

While today’s episode is one of the weaker ones – The General, a very wide-eyed Sixties attempt at satire with a crushingly obvious ending – this time last week they showed perhaps the best of them, the complex, brilliant, mind-bending attempt at breaking down the Prisoner’s self-image by making him The Schizoid Man. By an uncanny coincidence, at exactly the moment that was showing last week, Angela Smith (one of the lowest numbers in the Labour Government) was resigning over the 10p tax rate, having taken just 393 days to do the adding up (you can see why her abilities haven’t propelled her further than the lowest rung, can’t you?). Then, suddenly – in a twist not unlike The Prisoner in one of its more bleedin’ obvious moments – she didn’t. And that’s the difference between the Village and the Westminster Village: the Prisoner is kept there because he stands firm to his principles and won’t cave in; Angela Smith was merely the precursor of all those Labour MPs yesterday who keep their places in the Westminster Village by giving up their principles and caving in at every opportunity, as interrogators pressed The Schizoid Woman: “Why didn’t you resign?”

Mr Brown’s Lies Exposed

Such few principles as Mr Brown clings to boil down essentially to two messages: that he believes work is the morally upright solution to everything; and that he wants to reduce poverty. His doubling the tax rate on the lowest-earning workers gives the lie to both. People who earn the smallest amount and often have to work the hardest to get it have had money taken off them by Mr Brown to give to people on middle incomes. Remember when he raised pensions by just 75p? Once again, his inherent meanness and control-freakery, means that he can’t stand people getting money, still less keeping their own, if he doesn’t think they ‘deserve’ it – and that, like his insulting 75p, he just doesn’t understand that people on less than a tenth of his generous public salary might be a bit narked when he squeezes them for cash.

If you heard any of his pathetic, mealy-mouthed excuse for an interview yesterday, you’ll have heard him trying – disgustingly – to claim that doubling the lowest rate from 10p to 20p* was morally right because it wasn’t the best way of helping the poor. No, Mr Brown, and giving a tax cut to people on middle incomes that’s bigger the better-off you are under about £40,000 was targeted at poverty, was it? Of course not. This shameful steal from the poorest was purely and simply to try and bribe people with their own money in the run-up to an election Mr Brown hoped was coming. But ducked and then lied that he’d never planned one anyone, just as yesterday he backed down in part and then lied that it was in line with what he’d said all along. When what he’d actually said all along was that there were no losers from his tax hike… Which was a flat-out lie.

*Though, of course, Mr Brown still calls what he did “abolishing the 10p rate” as if it was a tax cut rather than a massive tax hike for the lowest-paid. Sorry, but now that shameful piece of spin’s more than a year old, even Labour MPs have finally spotted it’s a lie.

The other point Mr Brown made yesterday was a claim that this was a historic simplification of the tax structure. Aside from the fact that, as I wrote more than a year ago, he’s “simplified” three income tax brackets into either two or three depending on which income you look at – which, as the more agile-brained among you (look away, Labour Members, it’ll make your heads hurt) will know means it’s technically complicated the tax structure rather than simplified it – most of the people he’s talking about don’t have a “simple” tax structure, but an insanely complicated tangle of tax credits designed by Mr Brown himself. And the fact that not everyone he penalised will get any money back is, of course, hidden within this Byzantine edifice.

While Frank Field and his fellow simpletons think that every loser will be compensated, and the compensation backdated, the truth is that the Labour Government has committed to no such thing. The only backdating that Ministers’ve said out loud is a winter fuel allowance-based one-off sum for younger pensioners; and even that means that the people Mr Brown has coshed for their cash may have to wait months and months to get it back, and there’s no assurance that they’ll get the same next year – because, remember, the 10p rate isn’t coming back, so any one-off sum means a rip-off delayed, not abolished. Then there are the young people who suffered from Mr Brown’s smash and grab raid who Mr Brown wants employers to pay for through the minimum wage; well, of course they shouldn’t have been discriminated against for the minimum wage in the first place, but it’s telling that the Labour Government is correcting this not out of principle but as a shabby cover-up – and employers won’t be backdating the higher pay. And then, of course, there are the tax credits, which everyone already knows can take months to work out, are often miscalculated, and then end up clobbering you again to claw it all back, even if you’ve filled out eight thousand forms correctly to get it in the first place.

Here’s an idea: why not just let people keep their money in the first place, rather than fiddle the system with a myriad bureaucratic fixes?

I thought it was the other way round?

The Conservatives’ crocodile tears for the poor follow the inspiring pattern of first falling for Mr Brown’s sleight of hand tax cut and welcoming it last year, then abstaining on the doubling of the 10p band when it came to a vote, then only in the last few weeks – a whole year later, when suddenly it’s unpopular – saying that it’s a very bad thing but, er, that they wouldn’t do anything about it. Thankfully, after Ming Campbell made it his main line of attack on last year’s Budget while David Cameron was still panting wetly at the thought of lower income tax (without noticing a doubling of income tax on the poor to pay for it), the Liberal Democrats have kept up our opposition to this for so long that not just the dim Tories but even the unfeasibly stupid Labour MPs have now noticed. And Nick Clegg spiked Mr Brown appropriately at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions – though, as Millennium points out, if he’d had more than two questions Nick would also have been able to expose another shameless whopper from Mr Brown.

In a few days, I’ll post what I think of the Liberal Democrat tax-cutting alternative – and propose another option that has its own problems in ‘selling’, but would benefit lower earners more while still giving tax cuts to people on middle incomes. In the meantime, if you think I’ve been a little harsh in mocking the spineless, stupid Labour wastes of space, you might like to read what Liberal Democrat Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Jeremy Browne said in the House of Commons the other day. He’s not as gentle as I am.

Finally, an apology. Having exposed many of the ways in which Mr Brown has been deliberately attempting to deceive people, it’s only fair that I come clean and admit that my headline is also a big fat lie. No, while Labour MPs are indeed the stupidest in the world, for that very reason they’ve not yet twigged that they’ve been conned again – I just thought the headline had more impact that way. As to when they’ll actually work out that Mr Brown’s “compensation” won’t reach everybody, won’t be backdated to everyone it reaches, and won’t give the full amount they’ve lost even to everyone for whom it’s backdated… My best advice is to set your calendars for 378 days.

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We're all doomed, aren't we?
Very good blogging. I don’t know about you, but this is one of those issues that has always been so obvious that it actually hurts to have been right all along. In spite of the evidence I’m struggling to believe that people who manage to become ministers could actually be so breathtakingly unintelligent.
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