This week in politics
|September 9, 2011||Posted by Tom Wooldridge under this week in politics|
George Osborne this week suggested that he is considering abolishing the 50p tax rate that applies to any individual who earns over £150,000 per year. This applies to 310,000 people, the richest 1% of the population. Due to estimates made by Labour when they introduced it in 2009, it would bring in £1.3bn in revenue for the 2010-2011 financial year, £3.1bn for the 2011-2012 financial year and £2.7bn for the 2012-2013 financial year. Osborne has asked HM Revenue & Customs to find out how much is collected in this tax and it could be dropped as early as 2013. This is an absurd suggestion that has unfortunately been endorsed by 20 economists, including one that used to sit on the monetary policy committee. It has been slammed by Labour’s Ed Balls and Vince Cable has suggested that if abolished, it should be replaced with his pet policy, the “mansion tax”. The government still claim they want to get people earning below £10,000 out of tax first. Osborne argues that the 50p tax rate is hurting our competitiveness internationally, but I don’t see why the people who are doing well during this recession should get a tax reduction, when everyone else is being squeezed.
The Health and Social Care Bill is starting its passage through parliament this week. This is the reformed NHS plan that cabinet minister Andrew Lansley was forced to change earlier this year. It will open up the NHS to the profiteering private sector. There have already been secret talks between the Department of Health and a multi-national company, Helios, concerning them taking on the running of 20 NHS hospitals. In these hospitals the NHS would continue to pay for maintenance and for the pensions. Helios has a record of cutting costs by slashing staff levels, which looks attractive to the government who need to save £20bn over the next 5 years. The bill will also a feature a consultation announced this week by Anne Milton, a junior minister in the Health department, on abortion. She defeated the Dorries amendment this week by promising pro-life MPs a consultation on who provides counselling in abortions. This legislation will face an uphill battle; even if it gets through the House of Commons, which will probably take a while, it will not go quickly through the House of Lords.
When Ed Miliband became leader of the Labour party, he began a consultation with members called “Refounding Labour”, which was led by Peter Hain and will be presenting the findings to Labour’s National Executive Committee later this month. If you have read my article on Local Democracy, you will see the current situation in Labour. The brief suggestions that he has released to members indicates that local parties will have more independence with their structure; currently they are dictated to from above and are forced to change structure when HQ say. This will change to a system where they can determine their own structure. Activists will have more input on policy-making, “especially when these are supported by evidence from the doorstep and work with the community”. There will also be more pressure on councillors and MPs to help in campaigns in their constituencies, even if it’s not elections for them.
Libya continues to dominate the news this week with various high level escapes by former ministers and more fighting. On the 7th September, Gaddafi released another audio message vowing to fight on and not flee Libya – his whereabouts are still unknown but some have suggested he is in Sabha, tribal heartlands in the desert 400 miles south of Tripoli. Saif is still in Bani Walid, 100 miles south of Tripoli. He has armed many of the locals and according to people who have escaped he has used horror stories to make them scared of the rebels. The rebels themselves are currently outside the town waiting on orders from the NTC leaders. The talks between Gaddafi’s sons and the rebels have pretty much collapsed and earlier this week over 200 military vehicles crossed the border into Niger with money (euros, dollars & Libyan dinar) and gold. The former-Internal Security Chief, Mansour Daw, also crossed into Libya on the 5th September. Looking ahead, the UN resolution expires on the 27th September, so NATO need to finish their role before then or get another mandate from the UN, which is unlikely due to NATO exceeding the resolution’s call to protect civilians, but also because the Russians and Chinese would likely block any new resolution anyway.