Things Can Only Get…

We may be witnessing one of the great myth-creation moments of modern politics as Labour hammers home its tax rise message. Actually, slogans aren’t always fanciful – they can be pretty truthful too. I suppose Things Can Only Get Better falls into this category because it was destined to be proved correct in the face of Major’s evaporating government. But it did nevertheless bear the hallmark of a newly-minted rhetorical currency because in one phrase…from a song!…it encapsulated all the policies, all the personalities and the possibilities of 1997.

Another more clearly misleading trope was the Tories’ effort in the election just passed which created the myth that Labour Spent All the Money. Before the Crash they were marginally spending more than income, but well within acceptable levels and less than Mrs Thatcher. It was the Crash itself that maxed out the national accounts because revenues declined rapidly and benefits spending escalated. Labour lost the presentation argument to Tory spin and, when allied to the image of gormless Ed, made a gift for Cameron.

Today we are repeatedly told that a 1p rise to income tax is an anti-austerity measure. Kezia chooses to use the powers coming to Scotland not just manage the Tory cuts. They money will save vital services. The SNP choses to do nothing.

This works at the key level of reaching a distrustful and confused electorate. The message appears to make sense by asking them if they really want to defend essential services. Do you want to support our children in their schools? Then, since ‘there is no money’ we have to raise more by putting our hand in our pocket. The SNP run the schools and set the budget, ergo this is a direct challenge to them. In addition, the tax itself is broadly progressive in that takes more tax from those with more money. What are you waiting for? Vote Labour, save out schools…

There are many side issues relating to previous Labour decisions which impact negatively on this policy idea, but leaving them aside for a moment and taking the 1p rise at face value, does it do what it claims? I argue it doesn’t. There is a small industry in defining what anyone means by austerity. In as few words as possible though it is Less Money in the Economy. It is a reduction in the circulation of money through economic activity, taxes and public spending. Money is the blood that pumps through the body and keeps it alive and healthy.

For that very reason there is definitely a case for increasing public spending at a time of recession because it provides employment and therefore money in circulation and usually, say, a new bridge or road which itself is an economic artery. But that’s money the government can borrow to be paid back in time through growing revenues.

But if you take money out of people’s pockets and leave them with less to spend, you do the opposite of combating austerity – you take money out of the economy. You add to austerity.

That’s especially true if the extra money you save isn’t invested in a directly economic- generating enterprise, which is the case with money directed to a local authority for education services. (For school to be a motor of anti austerity activity requires the kids to grow up first and start earning.) Jackie Baillie told Holyrood teachers were ‘doing their own photocopying and buying jotters’ but so far as I can see no one is saying teachers will lose their jobs which would affect economic activity. Indeed the government is training 3500 teachers, a total that is up for the fifth year in a row. Simply putting money into a council budget does not in itself guarantee any particular advantage for services. There is, again so far as I can ascertain, no promise to ring-fence extra spending for education services, if that is Kezia’s objective. Without it, we are entitled to ask if the extra funds will simply ‘disappear’ (to use Jackie Baillie’s word) like the £1b in anti-poverty money the government disbursed to councils. The GMB is understandably agitating for the 1p tax policy as a means of protecting jobs for its members who include school support staff but in order to sell the Save Our Schools offensive it is first necessary to create the idea that without it schools will be lost. But there is no evidence any schools will be forced to close or that any pupils will not have a school place. If the tax rise was imposed – and we don’t know how much will be left after administration and ‘rebates’ – it can be used to support a school meals service, essential janitorial staff and road crossing personnel. It won’t ‘save any schools.’

Still brutal though, isn’t it? This is what we’re reduced to…counting playground staff and dinner ladies. These are dismal times under budget surgery Labour itself voted for in the Commons only a year ago and which are now passed down through the SNP government. Government, eh? Tough decisions, Johann used to say. Make the tough decisions….not what she’s saying today.

There is an actuarial equation at work here – do you benefit more from leaving the money in a voter’s pocket to spend or more from taking it out to put in a council budget? I’d go for leaving everybody better off so the economic benefit is spread across the whole of society. That’s the real anti-austerity gambit. Hitting even the low paid – and bizarrely giving rebates to a two-earner £40,000 household – isn’t anti austerity no matter how often you hear it repeated.

Nor, by the way, is placing the SNP beside the Tories factually correct. The Tory policy is to cut tax. The SNP policy is to retain tax levels. The Labour policy is to raise tax. Those look quite different to me.

And yet, there is a sense that the SNP is defensive and no doubt at all that this is a debate we need to have. So the myth that Kezia’s plan is anti austerity and the SNP does nothing looks like it will catch on as a campaign theme. Are Scots just perverse enough to vote for the party that pushed the cuts and now wants us to pay for them?

I think we already know the answer.

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31 thoughts on “Things Can Only Get…

  1. The answer is no. They’re already on the naughty step for playing these sort of games and got hammered for it last May. Trying to pin austerity on the SNP simply won’t fly. Even if (and that’s a pretty big IF) Labour wins and hey presto just like that – they’re faced with austerity cuts and no way to avoid them – the answer to punish the victims with higher income tax. No way to know if that raised money won’t lead to reductions in Scotlands block grant, wrecking the Scottish economy. With no powers over tax rebates, their council tax rebate will be treated as income and be taxed. Its a car crash plan. So bad is it, that the idea of this party being in charge of Scotlands finances gives me the fear. It’d be worse than anything the tories planned. It wouldn’t be Devo max it’d be Austerity Max, and it would be the only thing Scotland will gain from the new Scotland act. What are labour going to do then? Go back to blaming the tories and hope everyone has forgotten they blamed it on the SNP.

    If Scottish labour wins, they’d betray the hopes all Scots – even those who still amazingly want to vote for them. They’ve crossed a line with their endless hate fest of the SNP. They’re playing point scoring games with peoples lives and they simply don’t care. I can’t shake the feeling that all they want now is to see Scotland burn.

    I don’t like the lib-dems. I detest the Scottish Conservatives. But Scottish labour…I am afraid of them.

    God help us if those Gobshites win.

    • Although Osborne’s attempt to scrap Tax credits has been temporarily scuppered, the Universal Credit Income and Change of Circumstances rules will in effect replace ‘hard working families’ ‘ Tax Credits with UCS if Labour’s farcical £100 bung or a 1p increase in Scottish Tax ever saw the light of day. The Branch Office would be doing the Tories job for them…getting rid of ETC, CTC, and WFTC by forcing changes in circumstances/incomes of those on lower incomes.
      Labour politicians are becoming more and more strartlingly stupid in their efforts to ‘listen’ to the electorate.. Sadly I think that it’s more to do with a collective lack of intellect than an evil intent to plunge Scotland into poverty and servitude. At least I hope so.
      It beggars belief that any politician Up here would be urging the Holyrood Administration to accept Mundell’s Muddle of a Scotland Bill, in the certain knowledge that we would be billions worse off. Yet that’s what Wullie, Kezia and the strangely invisible Ruth are Better Together attempting.
      They are toast come May. And Cosla and the Labour Local Dinosaur’s will join them in the Scottish Spring of 2017.
      We’ve had enough..Now’s the day and now’s the hour. Not long now.

  2. I think Derek’s analysis is right. However, the SNP has to counter the proposal and the claims, being made in support of it, effectively. It may be a pile of old guff that has no legs to stand on, but it will be used endlessly by all the unionist media to try to weaken trust in the SNP. It won’t matter to the BBC or the unionist rags that it has less substance than a vacuum, they will hammer the message as hard as they can.
    Having said all that, while I don’t for a minute think it will be successful, it would not be a good idea to let the theme take any kind of root unchallenged.

  3. This whole penny tax gimmick is a Bitter Together plot.

    Whether it would be applied is already a non starter as British Labour in Scotland would never get the chance to introduce it,just like the APD magic money tree.

    Desperate times for desperate people and the Scottish Labour lot are as desperate as it gets

    The whole nonsense has been flagged up by G.A.Ponsonby with his website presenting the debacle as a stick to whack the SNP with and tar them with the Tartan Tories tag and standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the Tories.

    Dire stuff and for that lot ‘things can only get bitter’

  4. Steve Asaneilean

    Once again I think the SNP are being a bit nice here.

    The 1p rise on every tax band clearly is a relatively larger increase for the lower bands and as such is unfair.

    The SNP don’t need to do much more than clearly point that out along with the very obvious fact that (Not) Labour are asking everyone to pay for the austerity they helped introduce in the first place.

  5. Dave McEwan Hill

    Has Labour In England suggested such a thing for England? Thought not.

  6. Goebbels Brown spent like a drunken sailor on shore leave. he had record task receipts and spunked them away on PFIs, the Iraq war and endless bribes to the client state.

    If he’d increased spending by 1% a year less form 1997 to 2010 then he’d have been able to abolish income tax.

    The crash was irrelevant. Labour wrecked the economy before the banks went boom. And the total cost of all the bank bailouts was £120 Billion and that’s already been repaid.

    The great myth was that it was the banks that cause the deficit and not the government throwing our money away.

  7. PFI – Edinburgh Trams – Scottish Parliament Building ,I could go on ,you might notice the recurring theme developing here , the common denominator “Labour” they would have a hard time selling papers .

  8. I think too many people now don’t believe anything they say i.e. they have ‘Cried Wolf’ ‘ too often. However the SNP have to make sure they get the facts out to kill the claim (some of which referred to above) but I also think they should reject the Scotland Bill

  9. I imagine most people would suffer a 1p tax increase if they could be sure it would be well spent (i.e. it improved services noticeably).

    Sadly, decades of mismanagement at all political levels has left the electorate with little confidence in elected and unelected decision makers, and they are not willing to suffer a tax rise from the party that was on watch when the financial collapse occurred.

  10. I have one or two more apt slogans for Labours cunning plan. ‘The better together tax’ perhaps, or how about calling it like it is, the mitigation tax. A tax for offsetting the austerity ideology/legislation of Westminster central government. Near as I can tell, that is what Labour believes the Scottish parliaments powers and budget are for, which is odd when they spent most of 2014 assuring us that the broad shoulders of the union (along with pooling and sharing) would protect Scotland from economic hardship.

    The actuality of life beyond the referendum doesn’t seem to match the sales pitch of the time.

    Who knew?

  11. Labour are the masons of Scottish public services! It’s a cult, and a dangerous one at that! God help us!

    • Janet, that’s a great way of putting it. Everywhere you look at labour councils it’s true, seems to be in the genes.

  12. Labour is so focused on trying to reclaim the image of being to the left of the SNP their message is about tax rises, not what they would do with them. If their message was about protecting the vulnerable they might get some traction. I think this is yet another example of hatred of the SNP blinding a party to how they need to project a positive message.

  13. Have to disagree. This might have worked to some extent before people had a good understanding of how Holyrood budgets and finances work. It’s already been dubbed the ‘Better Together’ tax or the ‘Trident Tax’ (the £400m raised just covers Scotland’s contribution to Trident). The SNP should have no problem kicking it into touch on logical grounds and the ‘Tartan Tories’ stuff just comes across as more SNPBad – not sure how many people are even listening to that anymore.

  14. Labour in RUK are not suggesting putting up taxes. So Scots voters can vote for increased taxes more than England, to pay for Tory austerity, which by way of Labour campaigning side by side with the tories, keep Scotland shackled to Westminster decisions. That’s a winner aye.

  15. Despite the best [worst!] efforts of the bbc I believe most people will see the Trident Tax as just another example of unionist hypocrisy.

  16. “This works at the key level of reaching a distrustful and confused electorate.”

    But the Scottish electorate are NOT confused. They are well aware that Labour has produced a dog’s breakfast of tax nonsense and that only makes it distrust Labour even more.

  17. O/T

    You may have heard already by this point, but Carmichael not awarded costs.

    Well done Orkney 4.

    • Best news of the day! The Liberal liar got off because the judges danced on the head of a pin but they are not so brazen as to award him his expenses. It’s to be hoped that the constituents will boot him out in 2020.

    • Macart

      It gladdened my heart when I caught up with the news. I was particularly impressed by Lady Paton’s comments 🙂

      • Didn’t miss and hit the wall, that’s for sure. 🙂

        The man’s career and reputation is now in ruins and pretty much all brought on by his own actions. I suspect though that somehow, magically, his eyewatering costs will be met. Also he has four and a bit years left in the post of MP for Orkney and Shetland. He could perhaps consider this severance pay I suppose, but as for fall out from this stramash? I don’t think its done with yet.

        The defence of ‘that’s just politics’ was blown apart in the court summation of the man’s defence. He may have got off on legal technicality, but that summation was a damning indictment of not just the man, but the party, the system and all those other parties and individuals who support it.

  18. I thought the whole point about income tax raising powers was a chimera in that any income tax raised is just deducted from the block grant? So why would you?

    Have I missed something?

  19. Your hitting on an important part of the austerity issue that is overlooked by the media and not part of the everyday debate but should be.

    Austerity shrinks the economy. So while Tories claim that borrowing more will saddle future generations with debt (it does), austerity simply shrinks the economy and damages trade and tax revenues. This is most aptly demonstrated by the fall in tax revenues and increase in trade deficit since 2010. The BBC constantly go on about austerity but on reporting a shrinking economy – the direct result of austerity- the BBC rarely report.

    When interest rates are so low and Government borrowing available at such good rates it becomes clear that austerity is not an economic plan, but a right wing ideology.

  20. This bitter together mob told us if we voted to leave we would have to pay more tax and now that we’re still in they’re telling us we have to pay more tax, I’m a little baffled that they think we’ve forgotten all their promises and lies

  21. Remember how Labour told us we would be better together and that Westminster’s ‘broad shoulders’ would see us through? Now those shoulders are sagging so much we have to take up the burden ourselves.

    So, let’s take Labour’s logic of anti-austerity and doing it for ourselves to its logical conclusion shall we? Yes.

  22. The bottom line is this ,the SNP Campaign machine is already up and running and the Labour vote is substansially lower than last years landslide.
    Tax or stories saying party is full of racists cybernats have no effect whatsoever.
    Too many times Labour and their cohorts in the media have cried wolf.
    This year is only the warm up bout 2017 is the nain event when we cleanse Scottish toens and cities of the corrupt unionist councillors.

  23. Labour manifesto –

    We told you to vote no because you would be financially worse off. You voted no, and you are financially worse off plus you got a government you didn’t vote for. To reward your loyalty we will only ask for £1.00 to pay for the cuts we said wouldn’t happen but did happen.

    Who says Labour don’t care.

  24. Sorry to go o.t. But Carmichael should have been taken to court by Nicola and the Scottish government not the 4 people who were brave enough to it should not have been left to them but i understand he is still facing parliamentary enquiry although they are hoping we will forget that

  25. If you haven’t checked this out Derek, its worth a look. 😀

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