Sunday, 11 April 2010

And they’re off – So that’s what the bad smell is

So the election has been officially announced and the campaigns are underway. Apart from the Conservative “Voluntary National Service” (and who is that going to help? The people who volunteer will be the nice boys and girls who don’t need help. And if it’s compulsory, well that doesn’t even bare thinking about – Hitler youth anyone. Besides, has anyone asked the over 65s if they want smelly teenagers picking up leaves for them. . .) it’s all about National Insurance.

The Conservatives are planning to cut a tax that hasn’t even come into effect yet: hardly the most daring electoral pledge. And to pay for it, lets hear it for the ever-present panacea, efficiency savings. Efficiency savings. You can really feel the slimy smile of Big Dave as he looks you up and down, axe in one hand, latest CBI report in the other, “It’s for your own good. No one likes the state anyway, so we’ll go about abolishing it, bit by bit, starting with all the services that people actually use”.

In the style of all the news channels, lets have a fact check. If you type National Insurance rise into Google, here’s what you get:

Daily Mail: National Insurance rise will cause unemployment
Telegraph: Labour's planned rise in National Insurance will hit jobs
Telegraph: High earners face increased National Insurance payments and a new supertax
Guardian: Conservatives launch posters calling it Brown's favourite 'stealth tax'

Saturday’s Independent gave a slightly more refreshing view: MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS “The leaders of some of Britain's largest businesses were last night accused of putting their own personal interests ahead of the country by backing Conservative plans to reverse rises in National Insurance contributions.” Quite right too.

So as a decent left wing commentator, lets ignore the fanatical reactionary ravings of the private sector and look at what the proposed rise actually means to us, the workers.

First off, it only applies to those people earning over £20,000 a year. So that’s me unaffected. And what about someone earning £25,000 a year (the average wage in 2009 according to the Office for National Statistics)? Well it equates to around £20 a month. All this fuss, for £20 a month. With a deficit of £187bn, £20 a month isn’t too much to ask.

Perhaps the most bonkers part of the Conservative plan is that all the efficiency savings the party plans to make are, rather than being used to cut the deficit, to be offered to the electorate as bribes. £150 annual tax breaks for married couples, whoop-de-do! Well worth staying in an abusive relationship for.

So what is the Communist Party offering? As you’d expect, it’s not exactly in line with the other parties.

“A 1% Wealth Tax on the super-rich would raise around £39 billion a year, a speculation tax on the City another £30 billion a year, and a windfall tax on energy, banking and retail monopoly profits an extra £16 billion” Never mind withdrawal from Afghanistan, scrapping Trident and reducing military spending to the EU average.

The CPB’s election manifesto launches on Monday the 12th. With the other political parties bombarding us with vacuous middle ground economic tinkering it’ll be nice to have some real ideology on the table.

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