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Paul T Horgan: May’s retreat should not hide Labour’s espousal of death taxes

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Well, the manifestos are out.

Labour’s manifesto runs to 128 pages. The Conservatives’ is forty pages shorter.

Labour’s has 25,000 words. The Conservatives’ has 30,000. There is more empty space in Labour’s document, which seems appropriate.

In the olden days, the only way to read these documents would be to buy a copy from W H Smith. Nowadays, most will be distributed electronically and read using a device. What humanity gains in saved trees is lost in the energy needed to power every gizmo used to provide this technological miracle, from the massive datacentre down to the humble smartphone.

The cut through from Labour is taxation. Labour are, once again, going into an election promising to raise taxes. No party has ever won an election promising this. The marketing folks have been at work. The fiery rhetoric of the ideologically-committed has been toned down to become a polite request for the better-off to make a ‘modest’ additional contribution. Yeah, right. Count the silverware.

By contrast, the cut through from Theresa May’s team, the Conservative Party, is about elderly care. As people decline due to age, they will be required to use the money they have saved for their care, until they have only £100,000 in assets remaining. This has been christened the ‘Death Tax’ by the ‘right-on’. Labour are on the attack. And now Mrs May has signalled the retreat.

Except, Labour are promising the same thing. Their manifesto says:

‘There are different ways the necessary monies can be raised. We will seek consensus on a cross-party basis about how it should be funded, with options including wealth taxes, an employer care contribution or a new social care levy.’

Wealth taxes, contributions and levies could all be called a ‘Death Tax’. Labour are actually stating ‘Dear voter, we don’t know or won’t say what we are going to do until you vote us in, after which it will be too late’. They have promised cross-party consensus, which means that if they push something through without consensus, it can be sent back by the House of Lords as a non-manifesto item. But Labour are also promising to get rid of the House of Lords.

Social care is a technocratic problem. It needs pragmatic solutions. It should not be a political football. Everybody grows old, especially now that people have better diets, healthier lifestyles and higher standards of living, all thanks to the Thatcher reforms. Seventy years ago, Labour stole the NHS from the people and turned it into a political bastion by bribing the voters with their own taxes and borrowed money by creating a system of care whose outcomes are worse than in France or Germany, while stoking unnecessary fear of a US-style alternative. Labour are pulling this stunt again and degrading the debate. Nye Bevan is dead, comrades.

The hard fact is that both Labour and Conservatives are making the same offer. The difference is that the Conservatives are being open and honest about a real-life issue that should be above politics. They offer competency on the back of an experienced team, compared to Labour’s neophyte amateurism. Only Labour is dragging the tone of the debate down into an ideological scrap. Conservative honesty versus Labour fear. Conservative competence versus Labour slogans. That is the real choice. People should not be hoodwinked by Labour’s soft soaping of a hard issue.

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan works in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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