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How Politics Works (Part 247)

Monday 21st April: Conservative leader David Cameron has vowed to “stop the government in its tracks” and make them think again over the axing of the 10p income tax band. He said he would fight in Parliament for compensation for those affected by the “disgraceful” move.

Wednesday 23rd April: The prime minister has defended moves to compensate pensioners, young people and childless people on low incomes who lost out from the 10p tax rate’s axing. Gordon Brown’s offer of backdated help came amid a continuing rebellion from Labour MPs over the issue. Tory leader David Cameron said the PM only acted to avoid defeat on it next week and accused him of “weakness, dithering and indecision”.

I’m fascinated by the current ongoing fuss about the changes to the UK income tax bands that came in at the start of this month. It provides a nice little insight into how politics works.

In the above case, for example:

– opposition politician asks for something
– ruling politician does the thing he was asked to do
– opposition politician accuses him of being weak because he did the thing he was asked to do by opposition politician

The funny thing is that these changes were announced a full twelve months ago.

It was obvious to me at the time that the changes would disproportionately affect anyone on a low income (specifically, anyone earning around £7/8K, who would previously have paid all their tax at 10% and will now pay 20% on all of their £2K-ish taxable income), while anyone earning towards the top end of the basic rate, or paying tax at the higher rate, will be better off (because the negative effect of the first £2K of taxable income being taxed at 20% instead of 10% will be cancelled out by the rest of the basic rate being at 20% rather than 22%).

So it seems odd that no one found the time to make a fuss about this at any point over the last year, when it might theoretically have been reversible. It’s a bit late now, isn’t it? Unless of course you don’t really care what happens to people on low incomes and are only really interested in jumping on the bandwagon to exploit any given situation for maximum political gain…

3 thoughts on “How Politics Works (Part 247)”

  1. “- opposition politician asks for something
    – ruling politician does the thing he was asked to do
    – opposition politician accuses him of being weak because he did the thing he was asked to do by opposition politician”

    And that’s exactly the job of the opposition. They wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t constantly challenge and check the government’s actions.

  2. Even when the government just did the exact thing that they asked them to do?

    Shouldn’t this have caused Cameron to disappear in a puff of logic?

  3. Absolutely – it’s how the British model of politics is designed to work. Look at the design of the chamber in the house of commons: none of this namby pamby round table style european seating arrangements. It’s deliberately confrontational, designed to ensure that the government’s power is always checked, if not for a straightforward ruck. Brown did what the opposition had been suggesting but the way in which he did it – which is what Cameron is attacking – deserves attack. Therefore the opposition must attack.

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