We have got to recognise that this 'poke-the-rich-in-the-eye' stuff will raise only a tiny fraction of the huge sums that the chancellor and prime minister have accumulated in debt.
So at first glance this seems to be fairly stereotypical rhetoric - a Tory mayor defending the rich and having a pop at the performance of a Labour government. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But wait
Everybody, I am afraid, is going to have to pay that off in much higher taxes all round.
Hmmm. “Higher taxes for all!” hardly seems like a trademark Conservative rallying cry, does it? Peculiar.
London is the motor of the UK economically. We need to send out a very positive signal about the enterprise culture we have in London.
Now that’s more interesting. Instead of pandering to the tired old social arguments around whether increased tax rates for high earners represent the ‘politics of envy’ (or ‘penalising success’), or whether such tax hikes are actually just a way of generating extra revenue whilst pissing off only a tiny proportion of voters, Boris seems to be, at least in part, concentrating on the economic effects of making London seem less attractive to ‘high flyers’.
And there is an interesting point there. With ‘top talent’ reportedly fleeing the City in droves, does it really make that much economic sense to further discourage senior executives from working here? The Times reports that the tax hikes “might lead to an exodus of high-earners from Britain”, and quotes a spokesman for PricewaterhouseCoopers to underline the economic danger of this:
From next April the UK will rank 18th among the G20 economies in terms of income tax and social security rates for senior executives. Lower-tax countries like Switzerland will look increasingly attractive to some of the people in the key industries needed to lead the UK out of recession.
Of course, only the most naïve observers would believe that a Budget is entirely driven by economics, and by making a taxation decision that predictably gets the media talking about ‘class war’, the government may be hoping to win a few votes from the majority of voters whose earnings are not directly affected by the tax hikes.
And as for the effects on the economy? Well, you could possibly excuse Alistair Darling for being tempted to think that the UK’s long-term economic prospects will soon be someone else’s problem. God help us all.