Thank you to the responses, both online and in person, to the article I wrote recently about my little verbal scuffle with the Shadow Minister for Small Businesses, Toby Perkins MP, regarding the Tobin Tax. As such, I’d like to write a bit more to give some more clarity on the issue. Lots of other stuff is happening in Beeston, and I will be writing about them soon, but this one has been niggling me, so excuse me while I stretch this one out.
I vote, as I hope you do, not tribally but after a careful evaluation of the qualities of whatever politician is put in front of me. I hope in some way, this blog serves as an aid to that process. It was started up after a surprising failure to find such a thing on the Internet back in 2009, and I feel almost embarrassed to be inhabiting that role now. After four years of meeting politicians, the desire to see through the label and onto the individual has only been intensified. I have met some truly awful people from all over the political spectrum, as well as some absolutely faith-restoring individuals whose goodness shines through whatever colour prism it passes through.
So, to recap. I believe that the way to get us out of recession is complex, but relies on this: growth, fuelled by investment, funded/underwritten by tax. You don’t revive an ill man by draining off his blood. As we have a situation in the UK right now that sees the gulf between rich and poor widening, and the power of wealthy establishments increase at the detriment of small businesses, there should be a serious look at the imposition of a Tobin Tax.
We’ll continue by giving it it’s populist and, I suppose, it’s localist nom de plume, The Robin Hood Tax. This levy is easy to impose, is a consistent and unavoidable income flow and is gaining popularity round the world: 11 countries on Europe alone are on the cusp of imposing it. It has such a tiny effect on financial institutions those harbingers of doom – and Toby Perkins MP came across as one of them- yet does so much to the nations coffers it’s hard to believe The City will reject it’s imposition: what better way to show some much needed – post 2008/PPI/LIBOR- contrition?
If Labour don’t run with this, then it’s doomed. If Cameron loses the next election and it’s not in the Labour manifesto, then it’s gone. The Tories will wait until Boris serves his tenure as London Mayor and bring him in as leader: and this is a man whose floppy blonde locks and buffonish nature disguise his virulent right-wing politics, where climate change is no more than a left-field hypothesis and the City is Camelot to the nation’s fortunes. Accuse me of being an alarmist, but I truly feel that we could be slipping speedily towards a Plutocracy: what hope if our only truly electable progressive party refuses to act as a brake to this slide?
You’ll get these arguments played out in the national press over time, especially as manifestos are formed (and the 2015 campaign, despite having the County and Euro elections preceding, is well underway within every local party office right now). Where does this issue sit locally?
Broxtowe’s erstwhile MP Nick Palmer commented on my last post that he was for a Tobin Tax, and was so in 2010. I checked my notes from attending hustings back then, and can confirm this to be true. It was at the Bramcote Hustings; which was possibly the most Tory-friendly of the three events I attended during that campaign. Rather interestingly, at the same event, Soubry confessed to being ignorant of the concept of this levy, which was hardly a fringe issue at the time. She promised, back then, to have a closer look at it: 31 months later and I’d be delighted to hear what side she comes down on.
Palmer’s willingness to support this tax is heartening, of course: as things stand he’s most likely to be our MP in 2015. That’s not partial optimism, it’s simple psephological fact. Soubry’s majority is the tenth most tenuous in the UK, and the swing required (less than a percent) to turn it back to Labour means it’s a simple win: a bit of back-of-an-envelope maths suggest to me that the Conservative party, under present polling data, would need a 15% swing in the polls within 24 months to put the contest into a 50-50 battle. The collapse of the Lib Dem vote nationally is also important here. I frequently hear from Labour activists that the Lib Dem PCC in 2010, David Watts, was disingenuous in the campaign as positing that it was a two-horse race, where he was one half of that future Findus lasagna: initially neck-and-neck with Palmer; post the Gillian Duffy bigot-gate gaffe, Soubry.
I make no apologies for thinking Watts strategy was valid: not admirable, but valid. Who goes into a campaign stating they are destined to lose? If Watts let in Soubry, well, so be it. David Mitchell, PPC for The Green Party, polled around the same votes for the Green Party that defined Soubry’s majority: do we blame him, therefore? Also, it seems very odd now, but Britain was gripped in what now seems a greater hysteria than the Salem Witch Trials, that of Cleggmania. Remember it? I imagine our deputy PM has a home where every surface in his bedroom plastered in that phrase, just to ensure he has some ignition to spark his getting up in the morning. As dull followers of political trends knew it was never to be, but to that first time voter; or to the fair-weather ballot-box attendee it might have seemed that a century of Tory/Labour hegemony could be usurped with a vote to the yellows. Why shouldn’t have Watts ran a campaign using that as fuel? Labour fans may say that he let in Soubry as a result, but surely Watt’s remit is not to choose which party he loses to. Perhaps it’s worth considering that the overall outcome of the election put his party into power- albeit within coalition for the first time in any registers voters lifetime.
However, it’s not credible to believe that the Lib Dems can fight back from what is becoming a real existential threat electorally to a strong force within 25 months. Yet let’s not dismiss the effect of local popularity, and the Lib Dems have that in spades. I remember watching Watts, defending his position as Bramcote councillor at the 2011 locals, force his face into his hands as his count was totted up. The difference between a raw statitician and a psephologist came into play here: Watts overcame the Lib Dem national decline and held.
Watts is pugilistic when it comes to campaigning: the Lib Dems may have no real hope here, yet they’ll want to make an impression, as well as retain their deposit. Watts is presently the best man for this.
Soubry? I’ve long posited that she’ll look to vacate to Rushcliffe come selection. She has, admirably, got herself front-bench very swiftly, and despite the odd foot in mouth moment, is a bit of a Cameroonian darling: pro-Europe, hated by the 1922 Committee, socially liberal. Would the Tories-assuming the Cameron/Hunt/Gove cabal still keeps control-want to lose her in 2015? Clarke has not hinted at leaving, but he’s out of favour with the party, gaffe-prone and demoted. He is also 72. He’s ripe for the Lords. I still forecast a move across the Trent.
Palmer? Well, if, one postulates from the poll I ran recently then he’s a shoe-in. Yet receiving 70% of an online poll is not science, though maybe a tad indicative. The swing in 2010 to the Tories was much less in Broxtowe than elsewhere, and when you factor in the aforementioned strong Lib Dem campaign it seems that Palmer’s personal presence saw that his unseating was by the shallowest of margins.
So surely a shoe-in as candidate? When we recently met I asked if he was up for it he gave an emphatic yes. Yet it’s quite possible that the local party may have an all-female list imposed. If this happens, and guessing that Palmer isn’t quite up for the necessary surgery, he is absolutely ruled out. I won’t get into a debate here about the pros and cons of all-female lists, no yet anyhow. But it would be a blow to Labour’s chances to regain the seat.
Their are also stirrings among the more Leftist elements in the party to back a candidate who is seen as less of a New Labour type. Palmer has, over time, moved to the left: his last term as MP saw him stronger against the whip and publicly regretting voting for the war in Iraq. Will this be enough though to prevent a more militant candidate? Watch this space.