This post has been hypoallergenically tested for leadership contest irritants and approved by the Soiling Association.
The pre-spat blurb from Mark Littlewood on Sunday’s Politics Show has understandably faded from view somewhat. Among its several exasperating features (Vox pop: “Have you heard of Nick Clegg? Have you? Go on, have you? No? Not at all? Not even if I prod you with this big stick?”) was a brief interview with a youngish twat-in-a-blue-shirt-in-the-street type who has voted Lib Dem at the last two elections and plans to vote Tory next time.
Why this defection by twat-in-blue-shirt? Well, apparently the Lib Dems need to really Sort Out Their Tax Policy. They need to realise that higher taxes isn’t going to appeal to young people on lower salaries who are finding it hard to make ends meet, even though it might mean more funding for public services. That’s why Cameron has won over so many younger people, says twat-in-blue-shirt portentously as he caresses his latte, with his stamp duty threshold raise and his inheritance tax policy.
I had to stop the Politics Show for a minute at this point and weep gently for a bit. All of what follows has been said before (and way better, like with figures and everything), but it’s always worth saying again, if only so that I can post it to my Facebook page in the hope that it knocks some sense into my idiotic Tory friends (love y’all).
I mean, maybe there really is no hope, if the electorate is this stupid (I said this post had been tested for leadership contest irritants – I never said I wouldn’t abuse the general public, especially when they wear shirts like that). It’s not the fact that twat-in-blue-shirt doesn’t know that the current Liberal Democrat tax policy would exceed his wildest dreams - it’s recently off the production line after all, and it’s the party’s job to bring it to the public’s attention, not the other way round. It’s that his reasons for favouring Tory tax policy are so tragically empty, senseless and overspun that it breaks my heart.
IHT is of course a tax specifically invented to annoy the People’s Republic of Mortimer, whether the Head of State is being forced hatefully to draw up calculations for people to avoid it or voluntarily reading silly articles about what an unearthly evil it is. It’s a tax on accumulated wealth which affects anything up to forty-eight people, of whom forty live inside the M25 and one is the Duke of Westminster*, so for twat-in-a-blue-shirt to be allowed to perpetuate the myth that it’s some sort of lodestone for the economic liberty of The People is risibly London-focused, and such an unselfconsciously Thatcherite piece of upper-middle-class bleating as to be little short of sick. (Incidentally, why would you give a toss about IHT as a supposedly selfish apolitical young person unless you are actually planning to murder your parents? Damned suspicious, in my opinion.)
But it’s not altogether twat-in-a-blue-shirt’s fault. The two main parties have successfully made IHT into a buzz issue, the kind of thing the editors of the Money section have on four-weekly turnover. This works marvellously if you’re in government or fancy your chances because the tax is dead easy to tinker with – there’s only one Act (IHTA 1984) and you can sign off regulations changing the thresholds around until the printer cartridge runs out if you like. Mark Littlewood, I assume, knows all this perfectly well as the party ex-Head of Press, but as liberals we have a certain moral and political obligation to nod and say “Hm, well it’s interesting to know that this is what you think, clearly we need to work on our message” rather than just beating people over the head for talking utter horse piss. No, criminally insane it may be, but we are stuck with IHT as a dealbreaker because it suits the media-stroke-major-party agenda. Fortunately, our policy on IHT is - lamentably, in my opinion – similar to Tory policy, so we still lose, but at least it’s only because no-one listens to us, rather than because no-one agrees (imagine my surprise).
Stamp duty is an altogether more interesting case. We don’t have an answer to the Tories here. A thorough read (okay, a CTRL+F) of the party housing policy will reveal absolutely no mention of stamp duty. Not one.
There’s a really, really good reason for this.
It doesn’t matter.
In a market where the average house costs ten times the average salary, it really doesn’t matter a flying bat’s fart** whether the 0% stamp duty threshold is set at £120K, £250K or £793,162 and fifty seven pence. It doesn’t matter whether it’s payable in pounds, yen, rupees, pomegranates or bits of fluff. It doesn’t make even the inciest, tiniest, weeniest scrap of a hairsbreadth of a difference to someone earning about £25k in London, or £17k in Devon (let’s say) who is trying to buy a rathole for respectively £140,000 or £90,000, whether they have to stump up a few extra grand for a bit of paper or not. Really. Truly. It doesn’t. Anyone putting themselves through the insanity of property purchase (I would like to know the thoughts of the Posh-Sounding Northumbrian on this, by-the-by) is officially the Person Most Likely to utter a manic giggle and slap it on the credit card along with the removal costs, half the deposit and the therapy fees.
Of course it makes it a fraction easier if you can already afford to buy. So would carrying all your furniture yourself. Or getting your dad to do it. But the main parties tout the precise whereabouts of the stamp duty threshold vis-a-vis their own arse as a property panacea on an equal level with home ownership schemes (which are problematic enough in themselves because at the time of writing they are only available to public sector workers called Colin who have lived and worked in the London Borough of Haringey for twenty-five years and have to travel more than fifty-nine football pitches’ lengths on public transport to get to work and always been very good and never taken a library book back late. That’s me out. I can change my sex and my name, but there’s chuff-all I can do about my library record).
To pretend that stamp duty, as IHT, is some sort of major personal freedom issue of our times and that tinkering with it will somehow promote a brighter future is a cynical, ghastly trick to pull on a taxpayer, an indicator of shockingly unimaginative policy-making and a sign that any prospect of our having “rights” on things that actually matter is in the toilet and we all ought to be constantly outraged. Oh, we are.
Howsobeit, it is by just these means that we have lost twat-in-a-blue-shirt. The second half of this post was going to be about how to win him back, but actually I’m now so depressed I don’t really care.
* It is just possible that I exaggerate somewhat.
** Hat tip the Cleggster via Paul Walter