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Mansion taxes only add to the toll tax is taking on our economy.

Vince Cable has once more raised his head above the parapet to voice support for Lib Dem policies that had almost disappeared.

This time it's the proposed mansion tax that featured in the 2010 election manifesto and wanted a 1% tax on all properties over £2million, I can only hope the Conservatives in government remember they're in the majority.

The idea of a mansion tax revolves around the concept of taxing wealth, not income, yet historical and international precedents have consistently shown that wealth taxes don't work. Plans in the 1970's had to be abandoned when the Treasury proved wealth taxes to be counter productive to wealth creation (and therefore economic growth). Meanwhile, numerous European countries including Germany, Finland and Austria amongst others, scrapped their existing wealth taxes in the past 2 decades thanks to evidence showing them to be holding back economic development. Do the Liberal Democrats really want to align us to an ever decreasing body of nations that are resisting pressures to move away from wealth taxation, or is Vince Cable the only Lib Dem in government who saw this policy as anything other than a vote winning ploy?

Cable is increasingly isolated in government. He has gone from being as close to a national treasure as it's possible for a serving politician to be, to being a loose cannon marred by his membership in a coalition he doesn't support. Whilst I have no basis for making this accusation, I wouldn't be surprised if shortly after the budget Vince was to resign and join the Labour ranks. Such a move would fit acceptably with Ed Miliband's new (if poorly explained) economic mutterings, and would offer Cable the chance to begin pushing his own agenda once more back in the opposition benches where he is happiest.

Perhaps the argument that has been left behind however is why a mansion tax (or any form of tax for that matter) is necessary. Conservative politicians seem to have jumped the gun on the mansion tax proposal and forgotten to remember that tax damages the economy. Arguments about fairness and how the money should be spent have been jumped to first instead of defending taxpayers against the incursion of the ever growing state. Whilst Conservatives want to use the money to scrap the 50p tax rate, Labour and Liberals want it to fund benefits and tax credits for struggling families. The 50p rate should, of course, be abolished given its impact on growth and investment by high-worth individuals, and whilst support for struggling families is a noteworthy cause the way to pay for it is not by punishing those with the skills to generate wealth and jobs.

According to research carried out by Savills, on behalf of the Centre for Policy Studies, high value homes already generate an incredible amount of tax revenue for the treasury. In fact, the property tax take as a proportion of GDP is not only the highest, but over double the OECD average.

Some of the various incomes from property are stated below.
The top 1.6% of homes bring in 26% of stamp duty, totalling £1.2bn.
Top 0.7% of homes bring in 36% of property inheritance tax.
Overall, the top 1% of incomes bring in roughly 30% of all taxes.
Last year a new 5% band of stamp duty on homes over £2m was introduced, bringing in £290m per year.

Given that the UK is already a disproportionately expensive place to buy property, we need to move past a short term desire to boost Treasury coffers and focus on making our markets more competitive in order to encourage growth.

If the coalition truly wants to foster economic growth and development, it must get serious about reducing the size of the state and letting companies chose their own direction. Restrictive regulations and hefty tax burdens are crippling companies ability to expand and build the financial reserves necessary to build confidence. Instead of punishing those with expensive homes, who have often inherited them or watched their value climb over years (London property values have risen 426% over 20 years), we should be trying to put money in their pockets to boost consumption.

The universal truth of government is that it is inefficient and can't spend money well. A new mansion tax would prevent money being spent in the economy and tie it up in government hands, strangling consumption and growth. So in short, both the economy and home owners would suffer.

There is nothing to be gained by creating new taxes, but much to be lost. Vince Cable and Labour both need to move past the politics of ideology and envy and realise that a low-tax economy is the only viable vehicle for growth in the short term.


"We have no plans to introduce a fat tax" - shame

This country has a problem with obesity. I'm not going to go into the figures because they are widely available and its not a debatable topic, people are getting fatter, and fat is expensive (appx £4.5bn per year).

Sadly the Coalition has decided that there will be no "fat tax" to combat the growing problem. I can only assume that the government has taken the view that as Conservatives we generally dislike tax, and that low tax is good. Generally this is true, when it comes to corporation and personal taxes. But this is not one of those situations. The companies producing fast foods also make vast profits, and a small tax won't force them to close.
Now whilst Conservatives may generally believe in low tax economies, most of us also believe in liberty and freedom of choice. Personally I believe that people have the right to make stupid decisions. If people want to eat fatty foods in full knowledge that they may lead to a host of illnesses and possible death, then that is their decision to make. In this situation our two beliefs are in conflict, invididual responsibility Vs low tax economy. Individual responsibility must prevail, tax is not always an evil.
Just don't expect me to pick up the bill. I can't find figures for the total revenue generated from fast foods and fatty foods, and I don't have time to piece them together from a thousand different companies. But let us assume that its something like the revenue generated by smoking. I wrote an article in May on a new Drugs Policy which looked at some simple figures in relation to smoking tax revenues and NHS costs and revealed how we make appx £7.3bn a year profit as a nation from smokers. All we need to do therefore is transpose this model onto the fast food industry. If people want to make themselves obsese, fine. Let them. Just make sure they pay for the healthcare they expect when it makes them ill.

I'm not talking about some kind of American system which will only treat when the cheque has cleared, im talking about a low level regressive taxation on fatty foods. Preferably it would operate on a sliding scale which takes into account salt and fat content, as well as calorie counts. A tax of between 1 and 10% on fast food would be barely noticable but would raise massive revenues for the treasury which could be redirected straight into the NHS to pay for obesity treatment, prevention programmes, or a host of other medical services. Lets be honest, is adding another 9 pence onto a 99p McDonalds burger really going to put people off buying it? No.
Currently the government is only looking at programmes that encourage invidividuals to make informed and 'sensible' decisions, such as Change4Life. By using better labelling on packaging (Eu Food Information Regulation due to come into force soon) the government hopes people will ditch fast food of their own volition. Sadly no one in the government eats fast food and has probably never been within 50m of a McDonalds, they havn't got a clue. If a load of red trianges appear on a McDonalds wrapper then maybe a couple more people will refrain from buying a burger, but I highly doubt it. Labelling and education won't fix this obesity crisis, plus given past government strategies their attempts will probably be feeble and expensive, which brings us to something else. The government wants to educate people, which tends to cost money. Money comes from one place, the taxpayer, which brings us back to the fact that if people want to make themselves fat then I refuse to pay for it.

Ultimately, individuals have a responsibility to chose how they want to live their lives and if they want to eat rubbish food. But the government is assuming that people are rational, which they aren't. As a nation we know that burgers and Coke are bad for us, but they taste good so we eat them. Introduce a tax to pay for the health problems caused by fatty foods and pay for education programmes, then let people make their decisions with no risk to the taxpayer.

The refusal of the AU to recognise the Libyan NTC is nothing more than shameful political posturing

The African Union has declared that it won't officially recognise the Libyan National Transitional Council until it incorporates members of Gaddafi's organisation. This is pointless political posturing.

No one is challenging the idea of democracy in Libya. The African Union explicitly supports the development of strong institutions and democratic principles, the question that needs asking is why they want Gaddafi's supporters involved in its creation. Although there may be numerous different models of democracy around the world, the creation of the institution itself is not something that requires Gaddafi's supporters. The creation of law and order must be balanced, so as not to discriminate against those of the collapsing regime (apart from the obvious - war crimes etc). But the creation of a government and broader democracy does not necessarily require all parties to be involved. It would be better for a smaller group to set up a system that allows for real democracy even if it needs adjusting later on than to try and get all parties involved and face years of posturing and failure.

Gaddafi was a critical player in the setting up and bankrolling of the AU. Its members owe him and for as long as there is the smallest chance that he could win some sliver of power in the new government, it will not abandon him.
The AU doesn't want to be seen to be picking sides, because Gaddafi still has many supporters, and his tribe have the potential to influence the supply of Oil which resides within the country. They want democracy yes, but they want to be on the winning side of that democracy. Libya is fractured, ruled by various different tribes all with competing interests. It is not like western nations which are relatively homogeneous. Tribal nations are fundamentally unstable and internal conflict is a constant which is why they tend to be dictatorships, or at best, tenuous democracies. Bear in mind that Zimbabwe and Ivory Cost are both in the Union - hardly shining examples of peaceful democracy.

Gaddafi was a critical player in the setting up and bankrolling of the AU. Its members owe him and for as long as there is the smallest chance that he could win some sliver of power in the new government, it will not abandon him.

Support for anti-riot methods:

YouGov has just released some stats on the UK populations support for more extreme riot control methods.
The stats show that most of the UK are very strongly against the riots, and that they are by and large in support of heavy methods to take the rioters down.
The stats can be found by clicking here.

There are stats ranging from who has done the best job of handling the crisis, to why people think the riots are taking place. But below are what I think are the most interesting.

90% support the use of water cannon. Although it would take 24 hours to take to actually deploy.
82% support curfews.
78% support the use of tear gas.
77% believe we should bring in the army.
72% support the use of tasers.
65% support the use of plastic bullets (baton rounds).
33% think we should use live (lethal) ammo.


The EU really needs to get out more.

The EU has just announced that it will be tabling draft legislation to reduce the power of vacuum cleaners to a max of 900 watts. Some of the best selling models currently use 2200 watts.
Apparently this is in order to save the planet.

Precisely which lonely euro-crackpot came up with this I have no idea. But they really need to get out more. Just who sits at home and thinks "I know, lets make our vacuum worse to save a few micro-grams of CO2?" That's a serious question.
The legislation will work in two stages. Firstly, by requiring cleaners to use no more than 62Kwh over 40 hours usage a year, then that will be halved to 31Kwh five years later.

Obviously EU autocrats don't care about cleanliness anymore. But I really do wish they would stop messing around and wasting our money on insignificant things.

Why I can't wait for Labour's suicidal Conference

Ed Miliband has decided that thousands of random members of the public will be allowed into the Labour party conference, according to Guido. Naturally Ed is trying to carry this off as a PR extravaganza, but in reality it is a damage limitation exercise to prevent the bad PR that would be generated when Ed ended up giving his speech to a half empty room. Bad luck Ed, what your doing is very transparent.

But in all honesty I think this is a great opportunity. We all remember when Walter Wolfgang was thrown out of the Labour party in 2005 whilst Jack Straw was talking, (now THAT was PR Labour style). He was a life long Labour party supporter. What happens when you take thousands of random people off the street and put them into conference? A few thousand Wolfgang's. I for one would honestly love to be there, obviously not to listen to lefty claptrap, but to get a prime opportunity to embarrass Ed Miliband and the rest of the party.

Ed Miliband has somehow managed to consign his party conference to become a living nightmare and come conference when his party realises what he has done, they are going to massacre him for it. A few thousand random people experiencing an 'open day' at the conference, all with the opportunity to stand up and publicly humiliate Labour at their own conference. Preferably, I want to see a Mexican wave by the audience in the middle of Ed's speech, a chorus of "I Predict a Riot", and a hearty waving of flags with the Conservative Party logo.
If tickets are transferable, then I'm buying.

Something I had assumed we always did....how foolish of me to think common sense might prevail

Transport Sec Phillip Hammond has laid out plans to charge utility companies who dig up roads during peak times. The only question I ask myself on hearing this news is that what the hell have we been doing up until now!?.
One economist has estimated that the cost to the economy of traffic delays caused by roads being dug up could be as high as £4bn. Whilst I strongly suspect that this figure was made up purely off the top of someones head, even if they have managed to exaggerate by 1000% then the figure is still stupidly high.
I always assumed there was a cost to digging up roads for companies, apparently not. They currently face no costs at all for digging up our roads and making us all late. Thankfully, if this scheme goes ahead then they soon will do. I'm not saying we should always charge them, but on main routes in the middle of rush hour digging up roads just shouldnt be allowed. Under the proposals any money raised would go towards schemes to reduce congestion (basically bus routes and cycle lanes) - instead it should be reinvested generally into the road network, so we get better roads in the first place.
Since 50% of works that require roads to be dug up are undertaken by the council, they too should face these charges, it's only fair. There is no reason why you can't dig a road up at night instead of 9am!
On the plus side, maybe utility companies will invest a bit more in their infrastructure under our roads so that they dont have to dig them up again 6 months later and pay these fees!

The refusal of the AU to recognise the Libyan NTC is nothing more than shameful political posturing

The African Union has declared that it won't officially recognise the Libyan National Transitional Council until it incorporates members of Gaddafi's organisation. This is pointless political posturing.

No one is challenging the idea of democracy in Libya. The African Union explicitly supports the development of strong institutions and democratic principles, the question that needs asking is why they want Gaddafi's supporters involved in its creation. Although there may be numerous different models of democracy around the world, the creation of the institution itself is not something that requires Gaddafi's supporters. The creation of law and order must be balanced, so as not to discriminate against those of the collapsing regime (apart from the obvious - war crimes etc). But the creation of a government and broader democracy does not necessarily require all parties to be involved. It would be better for a smaller group to set up a system that allows for real democracy even if it needs adjusting later on than to try and get all parties involved and face years of posturing and failure.

Gaddafi was a critical player in the setting up and bankrolling of the AU. Its members owe him and for as long as there is the smallest chance that he could win some sliver of power in the new government, it will not abandon him.
The AU doesn't want to be seen to be picking sides, because Gaddafi still has many supporters, and his tribe have the potential to influence the supply of Oil which resides within the country. They want democracy yes, but they want to be on the winning side of that democracy. Libya is fractured, ruled by various different tribes all with competing interests. It is not like western nations which are relatively homogeneous. Tribal nations are fundamentally unstable and internal conflict is a constant which is why they tend to be dictatorships, or at best, tenuous democracies. Bear in mind that Zimbabwe and Ivory Cost are both in the Union - hardly shining examples of peaceful democracy.

Gaddafi was a critical player in the setting up and bankrolling of the AU. Its members owe him and for as long as there is the smallest chance that he could win some sliver of power in the new government, it will not abandon him.

Something I had assumed we always did....how foolish of me to think common sense might prevail

Transport Sec Phillip Hammond has laid out plans to charge utility companies who dig up roads during peak times. The only question I ask myself on hearing this news is that what the hell have we been doing up until now!?.
One economist has estimated that the cost to the economy of traffic delays caused by roads being dug up could be as high as £4bn. Whilst I strongly suspect that this figure was made up purely off the top of someones head, even if they have managed to exaggerate by 1000% then the figure is still stupidly high.
I always assumed there was a cost to digging up roads for companies, apparently not. They currently face no costs at all for digging up our roads and making us all late. Thankfully, if this scheme goes ahead then they soon will do. I'm not saying we should always charge them, but on main routes in the middle of rush hour digging up roads just shouldnt be allowed. Under the proposals any money raised would go towards schemes to reduce congestion (basically bus routes and cycle lanes) - instead it should be reinvested generally into the road network, so we get better roads in the first place.
Since 50% of works that require roads to be dug up are undertaken by the council, they too should face these charges, it's only fair. There is no reason why you can't dig a road up at night instead of 9am!
On the plus side, maybe utility companies will invest a bit more in their infrastructure under our roads so that they dont have to dig them up again 6 months later and pay these fees!

The refusal of the AU to recognise the Libyan NTC is nothing more than shameful political posturing

The African Union has declared that it won't officially recognise the Libyan National Transitional Council until it incorporates members of Gaddafi's organisation. This is pointless political posturing.

No one is challenging the idea of democracy in Libya. The African Union explicitly supports the development of strong institutions and democratic principles, the question that needs asking is why they want Gaddafi's supporters involved in its creation. Although there may be numerous different models of democracy around the world, the creation of the institution itself is not something that requires Gaddafi's supporters. The creation of law and order must be balanced, so as not to discriminate against those of the collapsing regime (apart from the obvious - war crimes etc). But the creation of a government and broader democracy does not necessarily require all parties to be involved. It would be better for a smaller group to set up a system that allows for real democracy even if it needs adjusting later on than to try and get all parties involved and face years of posturing and failure.

Gaddafi was a critical player in the setting up and bankrolling of the AU. Its members owe him and for as long as there is the smallest chance that he could win some sliver of power in the new government, it will not abandon him.
The AU doesn't want to be seen to be picking sides, because Gaddafi still has many supporters, and his tribe have the potential to influence the supply of Oil which resides within the country. They want democracy yes, but they want to be on the winning side of that democracy. Libya is fractured, ruled by various different tribes all with competing interests. It is not like western nations which are relatively homogeneous. Tribal nations are fundamentally unstable and internal conflict is a constant which is why they tend to be dictatorships, or at best, tenuous democracies. Bear in mind that Zimbabwe and Ivory Cost are both in the Union - hardly shining examples of peaceful democracy.

Gaddafi was a critical player in the setting up and bankrolling of the AU. Its members owe him and for as long as there is the smallest chance that he could win some sliver of power in the new government, it will not abandon him.

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