Sunday, August 14, 2011

Master Osborne does it again

Post-war Britian has not been blessed with many talented cabinet ministers. There are some, it is true, who have shown early potential that disappeared when they came to sit around the table at No. 10; there are others whose lack of ability has been no bar to later holding the keys to the front door of that house. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer is certainly not in the first category -- let us pray he is not in the second.

While the flames of summer madness subside, Master Osborne has been cooking up his latest ruse: to end the 50% rate of income tax for those whose income is over £150,000. His argument is that it is 'uncompetitive internationally' - those who 'earn' that amount can pay to avoid tax or go to live elsewhere.

If someone does prefer to pay an accountant to avoid tax rather than hand it back to the government for the upkeep of the welfare state, it might be best if they did leave the country. There will be a few who do that but there will be more who judge that the advantages of living in Britain outweigh the disadvantage of becoming very rich just a bit more slowly. Advantages like having a functioning national health service -- which, if they don't intend to use it directly, they know at least that the private hospitals they plan to visit live off its resources.

Master Osborne's pronouncement is so ill-timed -- so out of step with his Prime Minister's platitudes -- that you wonder how he can get away with it. Isn't it time he was sacked? But, then, Cameron showed his weakness at the very beginning: any in-coming premier wanting to demonstrate his control and please the City (who, remember, considered Osborne a buffoon) would have ditched his university chum straightaway. But he did not and, in the months since, it has seemed at times that Osborne has spoken for the Conservative Party -- a Tory Party so enamoured with the inanities of market libertarians that it has forgotten its own One Nation roots -- rather than his master. The tragedy is not Osborne's lack of talent; it is his grip on power.

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