Last night's Newsnight began with a discussion of Labour's plans to re-raise the UK's top rate of income tax to 50%.
The programme's opening words were:
A Labour government brought it in. A Conservative government scrapped it. And now Labour wants to bring back the 50% rate of income tax.
Now, surely Jeremy Paxman should have said (in his ironic way):
A Labour government brought in less that one month before leaving office. A Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government scrapped it. And now Labour wants to bring back the 50% rate of income tax.
I really don't think I'm the one being biased (or am I?) in asserting that it's got to be relevant during any discussion of Labour's policy on the top rate of income tax to mention - at some stage - that the top rate of income tax throughout 155 of the 156 months (ie. 99.35%) of Labour's 1997-2010 term of office was 40% - which is five percent below the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition's present top rate of income tax.
Yet not once did either Emily Maitlis or Jeremy Paxman mention that, nor was Ed Balls grilled on that point.
Historical perspective is often lacking on BBC current affairs programmes though. Not so on blogs of course.
So...after the major taxation reforms of 1973, the top rate of income tax stood at 75%. In 1974 it was raised to 83%. In 1979 in was reduced to 60% and then fell to 40% in 1988. It stayed at 40% until April 2010 when it rose to 50%. The present government reduced it to 45% as of April 2013.
Emily Maitlis's report looked at the issue through a political lens, stressing in particular the concerns of the Blairites. Her 'talking heads' were entrepreneur Brent Hoberman (who has sat on economic boards advising the governments of both Gordon Brown and David Cameron) and Paul Johnson of the 'respected' Institute of Fiscal Studies. Mr Hoberman wasn't keen on Ed Balls's plan while Mr Johnson said no one could tell whether it would raise much revenue or not, saying the likeliest answer was probably 'or not'. Not a particularly helpful report for Ed Balls. (All watching Blairites would have loved it.)
Jeremy Paxman then interviewed Ed Balls at some length, and Jeremy was unusually restrained.
Interviewing styles are fascinating. Kirsty Wark went at UKIP's deputy leader last week like an angry ferret up a trouser leg. (I am Northern, so please forgive the imagery). In contrast, Jeremy went for Ed Balls's lap like a cat, then seemed to fall asleep on it.
Still, despite his purring tone, Jeremy did manage to sink a claw or two into the shadow chancellor's leg and the shadow chancellor did flounder a bit in response. Though maybe that's just Ed Balls.
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