Boris urges Chancellor, “Explain how you will cut taxes ?”

Boris JohnsonIn an interview with The Daily Telegraph to-day, reports political editor Andrew Porter, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, expresses himself shocked by the levels of income tax, saying he never thought he would see the day when other large European countries had lower rates of personal taxation than those in Britain.  He fears this high taxation is harming her competitiveness.

In the face of criticism that high taxation is harmful to Britain’s global competitiveness the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have been vague in assuring critics of their intention to lower it ;  Mr. Osborne has refused to cut the 50-per-cent. rate on highest incomes — instituted by the Labour government — despite being urged that, although it acts as a disincentive to the entrepreneurial creators of jobs and economic activity, it generates little extra revenue for the Treasury.

Sir Richard Lambert at the CBIMr. Johnson’s comments echo the strongly worded valedictory speech of director-general Sir Richard Lambert to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).  Sir Richard urged the government to set out a ‘road map’ of how rates of personal taxation would come down, a recommendation given more weight by the publication of figures for the last quarter of 2010 suggesting that gross domestic product (GDP) had declined by 0.5% and the economy might be about to fall back in to recession.

Mr. Johnson, attending the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, says the coalition government needs to develop its ‘Norman Tebbit side’ — a reference to Margaret Thatcher’s enforcer on industrial matters — and raises three points he thinks call for its immediate attention :

  • The first is the problem of high rates of personal taxation.
  • He urges the Prime Minister to strengthen the legislation on industrial relations to hinder the calling of politically motivated strikes.
  • He describes as ‘nonsense’ the claim of Transport Secretary Philip Hammond that a high-speed rail link will be an effective substitute for what he calls a ‘credible aviation strategy’, pointing out that European competitors to the London airports are already exploiting global markets.

Boris Johnson, seen by some senior Conservatives as having his eye on leadership of the party, is something of a fly in Downing Street’s ointment.  (Mr. Cameron addressed political and business leaders in Davos to-day, Friday 28 January.)

Although reluctant to criticize his friends, London’s mayor says, “I need to speak up for London and its interests.  I think we need to set out a pretty clear […] pro-enterprise direction of travel.

“I understand about 50p tax politically but there has got to be a sense of where we are going and where we want to be as a country.” 

He says he knows that the need to reduce rates of tax is something of which the Chancellor is aware and that it is something he wants to do.  “Labour have created a climate that is miserable and anti wealth creation ;  and was resentful :  it takes a real effort of political will to dispel that.  I hope very much that that is what George [Osborne] will do and I will lay money he will.  That is the way forward and I know he thinks this.”

Prime Minister Cameron at WEFThe Prime Minister to-day told the Davos forum how long he expects Britain’s road to recovery to be, saying, “We can’t just flick on the switch of government spending or pump the bubble back up.”  He told delegates that the task before his government is immense and that the transformation will call for painstaking work and take time :  “We must stick to the course we have set out.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Mr. Johnson, however, wants the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to address the three points he raises quickly.  With statistics having just been published suggesting the economy might have stalled and the government being accused of lacking a strategy for growth, he explains, “On things like union law, aviation and on tax we need to send out very, very positive messages.”

He urges the Coalition’s leadership to follow the example of the Thatcher Administration of the 1980s (in which Norman Tebbit tackled the trade unions and Michael Heseltine addressed the need of industrial and commercial regeneration), indicating redevelopment in London’s East End such as Canary Wharf and the Docklands, projects that would never have come about “without inspired Tory leadership”.  He regards his proposed new airport for London — in the Thames Estuary — as being in that tradition.

Of the government’s plan for a high-speed railway link (as an alternative to developing London as an aviation hub) he says, “What nonsense.  You can’t take a high-speed train to Beijing.  We cannot go on shunting jobs overseas to other countries,” pointing out that French and German airports are already doing better than London’s in the Far East.

In London in the past two years the Rail, Maritime & Transport Union (RMT) has called strikes several times and Mr. Johnson is keen to see legislation to curb politically motivated action :  “This is vital because […] with some union leaderships there is evidence of political decision-making and going for strikes that will damage the Coalition or a Conservative Mayor and we want to protect the majority of union members from capricious and vexatious strikes that are triggered by a minority.

“So the 50-per-cent. threshold [of members needed for a strike] is the right way to go.”

Although the Prime Minister seems to favour new laws on industrial relations, he would face opposition.

Meanwhile the Chancellor last night told the conference at Davos that his budget in March would be full of measures aimed at reviving the British economy.  “Our competitiveness has suffered a lost decade.  That is why this Coalition will be as bold in promoting enterprise as we have been in dealing with the deficit.  The ambition of my Budget will be to turn the tide on the forces of stagnation.  The guiding principle will be :  the future favours the bold.”

13 thoughts on “Boris urges Chancellor, “Explain how you will cut taxes ?””

  1. Johnson: “This is vital because […] with some union leaderships there is evidence of political decision-making and going for strikes that will damage the Coalition or a Conservative Mayor…”

    Even if this is true, which it probably isn’t (show us the “evidence”), what about the Fuel Protestors, who were happy to hold a Labour government to ransom over high petrol prices but are strangely reluctant to do the same to a Conservative one.

  2. You see, it was like this, officer…

    I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’m one of the squeezed middle. My family owned SME has bounced along on the bottom for two years and we’ve kept our heads above water – just – against an onslaught of increased costs and a mountain of regulatory red tape, by working harder for less. Directors’ pay has been cut, while our staff’s pay has been frozen. Yet at least we’ve so far survived New Labour’s Regime of Terror, we told ourselves.

    So we jumped for joy at the heady scenes in the rose garden last May, for ahead at last lay the Wicket Gate to restored civil liberties, enterprise without impediments and recrimination, decency in politics and a new vision of localism, Big Society and respect for the much abused, hard working people of our poor beleaguered country.

    Yet all of us now, staff and directors, are begining to feel just like Christian, dragging a terrible and unjust moral and economic burden uphill from the City of Destruction, all of us desperate to find the Wicket Gate and Celestial City promised us by Boz, the Evangelist: and Cam in his younger, evangelising days.

    “Follow the shining light…!”, called Boz, inspiring us to as stride purposefully towards paradise. “Er…what light’s that, I can’t quite see it”, said Cam, his brows deeply furrowed by the awesome challenge of austerity.

    “NO! Don’t follow the light, it’s a capitalist illusion, you need us, Big Leaders, to drag you along the yellow brick, Planned Regional road to regulation, local taxes, fines and punishments for failing to keep to the rules!”, shouted Tory councillors Pliable and Worldly Unwiseman.

    “And don’t forget to pay your parking fines, Wheelie bin and Social Justice taxes, 8 hour commercial parking permits, municipal insurance, smoking fines, vastly increased (council) office rent and utilities bills, your ‘Elf and Safety tax, Green tax, Climate Change tax, Social Justice and Existence taxes, you evil capitalists”, called Unwiseman, as we wearily trudged along.

  3. “But..but…the blue Manifesto Book in My Hand promised us Localism, small government, civil liberties, a bonfire of regulation and quangos and a spirit of enterprise. We believe in small government, big society and big enterprise.” I objected.

    “Oh, no,no,no,no,no,no you don’t”, said Unwiseman, you just concentrate on paying our Big Pensions…er fines, taxes and penalties…and leave all of the enterprise and technical stuff to Pliable and me, we’re rolling out the Big Society to approved stakeholders in line with EEDA’s Regional Plan”, they added, their voices now dark and menacing.

    That was when I pushed Unwiseman and Pliable into the Slough of Despond, officer, and noticed that the Wicket Gate was right next to it, though Evangelist Cam barred my way.

    “You can’t go into the Celestial City”, he said, until you’ve paid your 20% VAT, increased fuel tax and met your corporate responsibilities. By the way, while you’ve been looking for the Wicket Gate, your council decided they want to build 16,000 more modern, stretched, high density houses and flats in your town, in line with Labour’s Regional Plan, most of them in your ward and exiting (sorry about the heritage and conservation areas) onto your road by the look of it: but don’t worry about the already gridlocked traffic, they say traffic will get no worse as the council are putting a bus lane on the roundabout.”

    That was when I told Cam to jump in the slough, officer and shouted, “Right, that does it, I might just as well vote Labour for the first time in my life in May. Why? Because it feels as though Labour never lost control of my town and, if others do it too as I suspect they might, to teach the Conservatives a really Big Lesson.

  4. I’ve also joined hundreds of others in my Conservative voting ward in starting a campaign and protest group about this unsustainable development planned for my ward. My town has been described by politicians as a political microcosm of the country.

    It isn’t just the students and unions who are protesting, Boz, the squeezed middle have had enough and are beginning to fight back too.

  5. Exactly, Ed. With the exception of Boz, this is what invariably happens happens when you give power to members of the political class: they greedily and mightily abuse it.

  6. It’s not exactly a democratically comprehensive ‘we’ who suffer either is it, Ed? It’s exclusively the private sector of England. The others, the privileged elite: the engorged public sector and the rest of the union, they’ve led the life of Riley during what was for them an enchanted decade while we financed the whole shebang.

  7. I heard about a popular party game for children. As I understand it, a papier mache donkey is filled with sweets.
    Then the children batter this donkey with sticks, so that the sweets fall out of the broken and bashed donkey, and everyone is happy, except, of course, the donkey. Pinata. Ring any bells, Colleen?

  8. Received the following tale by e-mail the day before yester-day.


    A young woman was about to finish her first year of university.  Like so many others of her age she considered herself to be Labour-Party minded and was very much in favour of higher taxes to support rising government expenditure, including her own education — as she put it, the redistribution of wealth.

    She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch true-blue Conservative, a feeling she openly expressed.  Based on the lectures she had attended and the occasional chat with a professor, her belief was that her father had for years harboured a selfish desire to keep what he thought was his.

    One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and government expenditure.  The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors must be the truth and she indicated so to her father.  He responded by asking how she was doing at university.  Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 90% average and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she had a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew.  She didn’t even have time for a boyfriend and didn’t really have many university friends because she spent all her time studying.

    Her father listened and then asked, “How is your friend Audrey doing ?”

    “Audrey is barely getting by,” she replied.  “All she takes are easy classes, she never studies and she barely has a 50% average.  She is so popular on campus ;  university for her is a blast.  She’s invited to all the parties and often doesn’t even show up for classes because she’s too hung over.”

    “Why don’t you go to the Rector,” asked her father, “And ask him to deduct 20% from your average and give it to your friend with only 50%.  That way each of you will have a 70% average, which would be fair :  you and Audrey would be equal.”

    The daughter, visibly shocked by her father’s suggestion, angrily fired back, “That’s a stupid idea ;  how would that be fair ?  I’ve invested a lot of time and a lot of hard work to get those grades !  Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree :  she’s played while I’ve worked my tail off !” 

    Her father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, “Welcome to the conservative side of the fence.”



  9. Nice one, Pericles. Though is reward for enterprise and hard work still part of the Conservative ethos, do you think?

  10. Only if you spell it with a small ‘c’, Colleen ;  only if you mean true Tory.  The nouveau Conservatives — with their devotion to all things statist — are, in my respectful submission, mere socialists :  to paraphrase a well known English poet, a stinkweed by any other name would smell as foul.


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