Yes, a mistake was made with the abolition of the 10p tax band, but the worst of the 10p row was how it obscured the fact that Brown had lowered income tax from 22 to 20 per cent in his last budget. Can that tax-cutting Brown please re-emerge?Probably because there are few examples in living memory (with the possible exception of Australia and New Zealand). But then comes the MacShane piece de resistance...
My friends on the Left will insist that the correct Labour response is to raise taxes and break away from what they call neo-liberal economic policies. But when the state Hoovers up nearly two thirds of a trillion pounds from national income, describing such economics as neo-liberal is to mock language.
When trade unions and the Fabians invented what became the 20th-century Labour Party, no working man or woman paid any tax. It was easy to call for higher taxes because only the Tory-voting bourgeoisie paid them. Now working people are faced with massive deductions from their pay. There is some compensation for those on low incomes with young children, but a third of the voters in the London mayoral elections were single or childless people. The tired references to "hard-working families" upset all the voters who live by themselves, do not have children at home and are denied tax credits.Can the Left be tax-cutters? Why not?
And how can tax cuts be funded? By cutting spending.Hallelujah! A sentence which few Conservatives are yet prepared to utter (present company excepted). Let's just repeat that again, for the benefit of my good friend Danny Finkelstein.
There, wasn't too painful, was it? And just in case you think it was, over to Denis to explain how it can be done...
Take Labour-run Bolton Council. It decided on a zero council tax rise this year and was rewarded, rightly so, at the ballot box. When Mrs Thatcher imposed rate capping and told town halls to curb spending, a new generation of Labour council leaders rolled up their sleeves and worked within cost-cutting rules. Unlike their tax-greedy comrades of the Left in London councils, the municipal socialists of Leeds and Manchester, of Birmingham and Salford created a new style of local government by making less money go farther and finding innovative partnerships with the private sector to begin the renaissance of the great cities of England.
I do not know of a single minister who privately does not despair at the waste of money on pointless projects, publications, or legions of press officers that add no value. The taxpayer has given more than £1 billion of aid to India, even though that great country has more billionaires and millionaires than Britain and runs its own well-financed development aid programme. I was baffled as Europe minister to be told I had to waste 90 minutes being quizzed by a consultant when the kindly but shrewd tea ladies in King Charles Street knew what needed to be done. How much was paid to the consultant? What happened to his report? No one in Whitehall knows or cares. When I suggested using easyJet to cut flying costs in Europe, fellow ministers and senior officials looked at me as if I had left a nasty mess on their doorstep.Can I be the only MP outraged that town clerks - even dressed up with fancy titles such as chief executive - can now get paid £200,000?plus for running rubbish collection services in small towns?
No, Denis, you are not alone. Oh, and in the words of Jimmy Cricket, there's more...
So welcome Denis MacShane. Welcome to the ranks of the Thatcherites. Welcome to that small band who recognise that public spending can be cut. Welcome to that happy group of people who believe in the Laffer Curve.
All trade union leaders have had to impose spending cuts as income levels of unions ebb and flow. What makes sense to them should make sense to a secretary of state. The notion that cost-cutting is something the Right does is nonsense. The great firms of Britain, such as Marks and Spencer, BP, Corus and BA, have had their fortunes turned round by ruthless pruning of costs, thus forcing managers to think differently as they are told to cut budgets if they want to save their jobs. And in doing so they not only keep their jobs but find the companies they run are walking tall again.A government should be no different.
PS One thing I do have to argue about though is this sentence from Denis's article: "Can that tax-cutting Brown please re-emerge?" To re-emerge he would have to have been a taxcutter at some point in the past. Gordon Brown has never knowingly cut a tax without increasing another one to more than compensate.