Saturday, 11 April 2015

Tories – Desperate, Demoralised, Deceitful, Despicable, Detached

The last week has been terrible for the Tories. It comes after their fear of engaging Ed Miliband in open debate was shown to have been justified. The more the public see of Miliband, the more the Tory/media inspired image of him gets broken, and the more the public have been attracted to him. One poll even had him surpassing Cameron in terms of public approval. General Elections are won on the basis of momentum, and the momentum is clearly running in favour of Labour and away from the Tories. No wonder, therefore, that the Tories have appeared increasingly desperate and demoralised over the last week.

The desperation was illustrated by the use of the so called “dead cat” strategy. The term derives from a leaked conversation from Boris Johnson, who pointed out that the Tories strategist, Linton Crosby, has suggested that when you are losing an argument, the thing to do is to throw a dead cat on to the table so that everyone discusses the cat, rather than focussing on the argument you are losing.

There have been several arguments the Tories have been losing over the last week or so. The most recent has been over Labour's proposal to scrap the iniquitous “Non Dom” status for the very rich, which is yet another means by which they avoid paying their fair share of tax. The “Non-Domicile” status, allows very rich people who live in Britain to claim, on the most spurious of grounds, that they do not, and thereby to avoid paying tax in Britain. The Tories are quick to deny foreign workers, such as Polish plumbers, who actually live and work in Britain, and pay their taxes here, the right to claim benefits and other rights they should enjoy, but they are also quick to allow their rich friends to enjoy all the benefits of living in Britain, without paying tax to pay for it!

The “non-dom” status goes back to Britain's colonial past, and was introduced to allow all of the various pirates and cut throats who roamed the seas with the blessing of the British Crown to rob and plunder the world's riches, as part of building up Britain's colonial empire, without having to pay tax in Britain, for having done so. No other country in the world has such a rule that benefits the super rich.

If you spend more than 6 months of the year in Spain, or France, or most other countries, you are classed as being domiciled there, and subject to their taxes, even if you pay tax also in Britain. Its for that reason, that if you are going to be buying a house in Spain, and intend to spend more than 6 months of the year there, it is advantageous to take on Spanish residence “Residentia”, as it gives you the ability to pay your tax as a Spanish resident, rather than being subject to tax in both Spain and Britain.

On this basis, Miliband's proposal to give people up to 2 years residency in Britain, before they are considered to be a British resident, rather than a non-dom, seems extremely lax.

The reason the Tories gave for defending the indefensible, and opposing the scrapping of non-dom status was that it might bring in less tax than current arrangements. Firstly, that is unlikely to be the case, but even if it were the case, it does not make the indefensible more defensible. Britain could undoubtedly earn money and taxes by offering up its services as a provider of hired assassins, but would that make such a thing defensible? Of course not.

But, the Tories line of argument also just emphasises why conservative, nationalism is no longer practicable. What the Tories argument shows is that so long as different countries are divided into small units, they will always be open to such blackmail, and one being played off against another. The super rich will always be able to say, give us a lower tax and we will come to live in your country and so on. It is a strong argument for a single United States of Europe with common tax rates throughout, and for such larger states to co-operate to establish similar tax regimes and regulations.

But, the fact is also that the Tories argument that the 113.000 people registered as “non-dom” bring wealth to the country is itself a fallacy. Some of those who actually have established businesses here, for example, are not going to simply transfer those businesses overseas. If, for example, you have a hundred or so restaurants here in Britain, you are not going to just shut them, and try to compete with say French restaurateurs! But, as described previously, the idea that these very rich people, who simply own shares in British companies, or are the executives of these companies, create wealth here, is a lie.

Someone who simply buys shares in a company, does not create any additional wealth whatsoever. They simply hand over some of their money to some other very rich person in order to buy their shares, nothing more. The Chief Executives, and Chairman of companies do not invest their money to employ more workers, or means of production, they simply use the company's own resources to do so, resources which have actually been created by the company's workers.

Nor does the argument hold that these very rich people create wealth simply by spending their money in this country. In simply spending money, all they do is to throw money into circulation, in the same proportion that they take an equal amount of value in the form of commodities out of the economy! Wealth is only created by producing a greater quantity of value.

The Tories were clearly losing this argument, and knew they were losing, so they threw their dead cat on to the table. They took the opportunity of using one scare tactic, the idea that a Labour government would be beholden to the SNP, to do so, by making an ad hominem attack on Miliband, accusing him of stabbing his brother in the back, and then making the totally ludicrous jump from this to suggesting that it means that he would “betray” the country and abandon Trident, to gain the support of the SNP.

That shows just how desperate and despicable the Tories have become. Miliband later said that Michael Fallon was a “decent” man who had demeaned himself and his office. Actually, again I think Miliband was being too generous. On every occasion I have seen Fallon appear in TV interviews, I have always felt that he is one of the more obnoxious, and dissembling of the Tories spokesmen, so there is nothing out of character in his latest descent into the gutter. Even some of the Tories own dissociated themselves from his comments.

The idea that Ed Miliband defeating his brother in a free and open democratic election, constitutes stabbing him in the back, tells us everything we need to know about the Tories attitude to democracy, as something that has to be completely controlled, and tamed so as to bring about some predetermined result. No one could then think that Cameron's own victory to become Tory leader had anything to do with him wanting to get into Number 10, or amounted to him stabbing in the back the other potential Tory contenders for that job!

In fact, just as with the issue over non-doms, though the Tories line of attack shows just how detached they are from the modern world. They seem to think that they can just pull the same levers that worked for Maggie Thatcher in the 1980's, as I suggested some time ago. In fact, recent opinion polls suggest that the British public are at the least split 50:50 over support for Trident replacement. Moreover, in the recent Leaders debate, most agree that it was Nicola Sturgeon who won the greatest support, despite coming out clearly in opposition to Trident replacement.

So, what exactly do the Tories think they are gaining strategically by making such a big play over whether Miliband might be prepared to ditch Trident to win SNP support?

In reality, they aim at two things. Firstly, they are clearly becoming more and more desperate and demoralised, so they raise this issue to try to shore up their core vote, amongst their elderly voters, for whom this played well back in the 1980's. But, secondly, they hoped and succeeded in getting Labour to come out and say it was backing Trident replacement, because that would play badly in Scotland, where opposition to Trident is greatest. Labour has made a big mistake in lining up behind Trident replacement. They could easily argue, as many militarists themselves do, that the money could be much better utilised in conventional defence, let alone in avoiding cuts in other forms of spending.

But from a purely tactical perspective, with the campaign in rUK clearly slipping rapidly away from the Tories, with the Liberals on the very edge of being wiped out as a party, with UKIP sliding back into oblivion, and with the Greens only able to play the role of a diversion of Labour votes, Labour should probably not devote too many resources to opposing the SNP. If the SNP bandwagon is as powerful as the polls suggest it is unlikely to be overturned in the next three weeks by additional Labour campaigning and resources.

That's not to suggest that Labour should abandon Scotland.  Quite the opposite, its to recognise that putting resources into Scotland just for three weeks for an election campaign, is no substitute for the long term work, and the resources that Labour needs to put into Scotland to rebuild itself.   Only when the Scottish people realise that the conservative nationalism of the SNP is a dead end, will the SNP bandwagon end, and then only if Labour itself really changes in Scotland, and over time wins back support.

For now, the time and resources are better spent defeating the Tories in England rather than the tartan Tories. That is so, because, even if the SNP do win the large number of seats the polls suggest they will have no choice but to support Labour. Contrary to the Tories claims that Labour would be beholden to the SNP, the fact is that the SNP could not vote to bring down a Labour government and put in place a Tory government, because as soon as it did so, it would be dead in Scotland itself.

No comments: