I am not sure if it is class war exactly but something very like it is back.
Perhaps it is a hybrid of a class, eco and generational war. In that Labour is planning to sting those earning £80,000 a year or more with an additional tax burden just short of £20bn from higher taxes on income, capital and dividends.
As for businesses and financial institutions, they are being whacked for almost £50bn, in a dizzying array of increased levies on profits, assets and financial trading, and – eccentrically perhaps for a party saying it wants to encourage a green high-tech economy – a reduction in allowances for spending on research.
And there’ll be a further £11bn windfall levy on carbon-spewing oil companies – and businesses failing to meet environmental standards would be kicked off the stock exchange.
That is the stick with which Jeremy Corbyn intends to beat the ‘billionaires’ he holds in contempt. Though, slightly less emotively and more accurately, the shadow chancellor John McDonnell insists it is the top five per cent who will pay for the improved public services that Labour is promising.
Actually, some lower earners would be penalised by Labour’s reversal of inheritance tax cuts and abolition of the married persons allowance. And if companies respond to the tax rises by lifting prices or cutting employment, we’ll all pay some kind of price. But that is to quibble.
Corbyn’s Labour is looking to the private sector and to the richest one-twentieth of us – most of them over 50 – to finance significantly increased spending on welfare, schools, hospitals, personal care for the elderly and students (tuition fees abolished; maintenance grants restored).
Perhaps most symbolically there would be a five per cent pay rise for all public sector workers – who will now need an even better reason than they may have already had not to vote for Corbyn’s Labour.
Theoretically, everyone would benefit if Labour’s £450bn of borrowing for all manner of green investment and nationalisations accelerated overall growth. And there could also be a stimulus from the £500bn of government-backed loans and investments Labour would want to make over ten years from a new National Investment Bank.
How much of that state-directed investment will be spilt milk like the state investment of yore we cannot know until we see the calibre of the new breed of public sector technocrat.
The important point though is that under Labour there would be a massive shift of economic and political clout away from the executive or boss class, away from owners of capital and away from ‘boomers’ (hello Jeremy Corbyn) and towards the state, the government, employees (promised a universal £10-an-hour living wage) and trade unions (who would gain important new collective bargaining rights to set pay and working conditions for whole sectors).
We haven’t seen an election defined quite in this way by economic and demographic interests since 1992. Like it or not, you are going to have to choose a side.
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