Friday, 5 October 2007

Will it be the Tories or the Greens who offer 'Green leadership'?

Events, dear Prime Minister, events... Cameron's unexpectedly impressive polls-bouncing Conference speech - on the back of a 'populist' (though appallingly regressive) pledge to give tens of thousands of pounds to the children of dead near-millionaires - seems to have changed the landscape somewhat. The prospects of a November poll are receding a little. Unless Labour's private polling over the next few days indicates a recovery of the Labour lead to at least 7 points (which remains altogether possible), I now believe that Brown will probably not go this year.
And what of the content of Cameron's speech? The line that struck me the most was this: "what we must be is the party of sensible, Green leadership, and that is exactly what we are going to stay". "Sensible" is code for "not actually proposing to do very much". But it must nevertheless worry every Green Party member that Cameron - the Leader the Party of the super-rich and of John Redwood - can so much as talk about the Conservatives as exhibiting "Green leadership", and seemingly get away with it. The Conservatives as Green leaders is a total joke; it's the equivalent of New Labour claiming to be true socialists or the LibDems claiming not to be opportunists... But Cameron does get away with it, because of how invisible the Green Party is on the national media stage. (That we have some local and regional media impact where we are strong does not gainsay our deeply-worrying lack of national coverage, at the very time when 'our issues' are more prominent on the national stage than they have ever been.) We were quoted in none of the newspaper articles which quoted this line from Cameron's speech.
And, while it is true that there is naturally bias against us in the corporate media, it is inaccurate sour grapes for us to blame the corporate media alone for this lack of coverage of the Green Party. The truth is that, despite real strength in our top target areas (we are at last truly in contention, in seats like Brighton Pavillion and Norwich South), we are in low single-figures in the national polls, and we still lack a single MP. We need to give the media a reason to take us seriously, so that they start conveying our message to the public for us for free, as they already do with Cameron's vapidities. If it is after all going to be 2-3 years before we can get our first MPs, then we need to take maximum advantage of that period. We need to show - now- that we are serious about taking power in the existing system, which is of course what we are going to have to do before we can transform that system.
If the Green Party is to have any hope of competing on an equal footing with Cameron, Brown and Campbell, then we need to be ready to _show_ the public our leadership. The first symbol of this must be for us to move to having a national Leader. When someone like Caroline Lucas is empowered to respond directly, on an equal footing, to Cameron, then we might start seeing the kind of poll bounce that the Conservatives right now are delighting in. I say to my fellow Greens ((and to the rest of you, dear readers: do join! Just click the button at left to get started!...)): Lets be the Party of radical Green leadership -- lets show that that is what we are going to stay, by giving our Leader the tools to do the job. Radical policy prescriptions are what is sensible, at this tipping-point in history. Let's give ourselves a shot at power, when the world desperately needs us to have that power. Let's lead, proudly and without apology.

11 Comments:

Blogger crow23 said...

Think through the logic of your postulated route to transformation through political power, Rupert. Any requirement for the Greens to change their mandate significantly on this 'journey of a thousand miles'. Me thinks things are only going to change fundamentally with a change from the bottom as the 'impeccable logic' of the Green's position is absorbed by those who are prepared to think.

That doesn't mean that we don't use the political process to our own advantage - but I do think we need to become more honest and not prune our message to maximise our votes.

5 October 2007 at 11:01  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

I wouldn't care to bet that this is the end of an early election - as I read somewhere today (obviously indirectly from a Labour spin doctor), even IDS got a post-conference bounce.

5 October 2007 at 12:07  
Blogger weggis said...

The term “millionaire” has lost much of its meaning since I was a boy. Back then a bun cost a penny [1d], now it’s 40p [8 shillings]. My first weekly pay packet was £4, 16s, 8d. Football players were capped at £100 per week.
Today’s near millionaires are actually people of modest means who have made sacrifices to achieve that position. This is why the Tory proposals are so popular and why the Green Party needs to flesh out its own policy on this. It’s all very well having the principle defined but you actually need to tell people how it would operate and therefore how it would affect them.

8 October 2007 at 15:09  
Blogger Rupert said...

A lot of my constituents are Council house owners or tenants. Until there is any chance whatsoever of some of them being near-millionaires, I am not going to be overly worried if Inheritance Tax stays at its current level...

8 October 2007 at 19:31  
Blogger weggis said...

Your choice Rupert.

Mr Darling seems to have picked it up though. Maybe that's why he is Chancellor and there are no GP MPs?

Oh BTW, one of your constituents is my uncle. He grew up in poverty in the backs streets of Pentonville in the 1930s. He was just an ordinary worker in the print, a trade union member and FOC. He now owns a former council house and is subject to IHT. If IHT affects ORDINARY people in Norwich just think what it does round here in urban London.

So we let Darling and Osborne take the initiative and the Turkeys will carry on voting for Christmas.

9 October 2007 at 22:52  
Blogger Rupert said...

The point is straightforward. Inheritance tax is paid by 6% of estates. I.e. The wealthy. (Like your uncle, Mr. Weggis, who must have some other nice assets tucked away, because a former Council house alone in Norwich is not worth 300k.) It is wrong to redistribute in favour of the wealthy. That Darling is starting to do so tells us reams about New Labour's real priorities today.
The Green Party's counter-proposal is that the payment or otherwise of inheritance tax should depend not only on the wealth of the deceased, but on the wealth of the estate recipient(s). This would help make inheritance tax more progressive. Wealthy inheritors should inherit less than poor inheritors.

10 October 2007 at 08:43  
Blogger Dorothea said...

Rupert said... “A lot of my constituents are Council house owners or tenants. Until there is any chance whatsoever of some of them being near-millionaires, I am not going to be overly worried if Inheritance Tax stays at its current level…”


Don’t you think that your comment risks sounding just a tiny bit out of touch, complacent or ivory tower, Rupert?

The trouble with democracy is that politicians have to offer policies that appeal to the voting sections of the public. However much they may secretly dislike that public and its views, those who wish to get elected need to disguise their contempt for the electorate. Leadership can be a real burden that way.

With the price of a home and a bit of land at artificial and cripplingly high levels there are very large numbers of elderly people with assets totalling more than £300 K. These voters (and, crucially, elderly people have very high turnout rates) want to pass on their hard-earned goods to one or more middle-aged offspring, and their families in turn. That’s a lot of potential voters for whom inheritance tax reduction is a major issue of great personal importance - even Darling Brown can see how popular it is.

It is surely a truism that politics is the art of the possible. As Weggis says, the Green Party has some potentially appealing policy outlines, particularly in relation to changing over to recipient-based inheritance, but at present they are too vague. Political parties which seek the responsibility of representing a wide section of society do well to treat all the voters’ basic concerns with respect and address them in detail, rather than dismissing them out of hand.

10 October 2007 at 08:55  
Blogger weggis said...

I see the “whirling dervish” has found you.

Now, Rupert.

I know what the GP policy is, I’m a member. I live in an area of London where the average house price is around £400k. This is quite MODEST for London. AND it is why many “Key Workers” like my daughter still live with their parents.

The parliamentary constituency was safe Tory until 1997 when they lost to NuLab. It is now a Tory marginal, but as of 2006 there are no longer any Lab Councillors so I expect the Tories to re-establish themselves.

I have no problem when it comes to getting local people to think a little more “greener” at the practical level, apart from the Tory Council Administration. But I have a serious problem when it comes to persuading them to vote Green.

Like a lot [but not all] of GP policies it sounds all very nice in theory but lacks the practical details which tell people how it would apply to them. The Devil is in the detail. How would the recipient’s wealth be calculated? Would debt from UniLoans and Mortgages be accounted for? What of debt from Bankruptcy? At what threshold would it bite, what rates would apply to what bands?

It is the lack of detail that makes voters suspicious, so they tend to stick with the devil they know. And comments like “I am not going to be overly worried if Inheritance Tax stays at its current level...” don’t help.

If the GP wants to be taken seriously, and break into the mainstream, it has to start knocking down a few Tory doors too.

10 October 2007 at 16:12  
Blogger Rupert said...

I'll say it again: Inheritance tax affects 6% of households, at present.
Why not more? Why only this small wealthy fraction? Obviously, because while very large numbers of people do indeed 'own' houses worth 300k nowadays, only 6% or so of people are themselves worth 300k plus. ...Because most people with houses worth 300k plus don't of course really _own_ them at all! The mortgage company owns a goodly fat part of them. (And many people with big houses also have high personal debt, which is also going to affect what their offspring can inherit -- and thus again takes a bunch of people out of the inheritance tax threshold.)
So: yes: the housing market is over-heated, and lots of people on paper 'own' houses worth more than 300k. But can we please focus on the reality of inheritance tax: which is that it only affects the genuinely wealthy. e.g. Only those who own _outright_ houses worth at least 300k are affected by it, at all.

11 October 2007 at 14:00  
Blogger Dorothea said...

You are still refusing to consider some very important issues here, Rupert.

As far as I can ascertain, the 6% figure is quoted from Government statistics, and is misleading because;

1. This figure is annual and only refers to current financial conditions. The number will increase if, heaven forbid, house prices continue to rise well above inflation.

2. This figure only includes the individuals who have died in one year. It fails to include all the people who hope to inherit from them.

One can conclude from this, that, as with so many Government statistics, the figure of 6% that the Government likes to use, minimises the reality of the situation, namely that large numbers of voters are affected; all those who even think that they may leave IHT-rated estates PLUS all those who think that they may get some money from them. 6% + (2 children x 6%) = 18%, for a start.

When added up, that is a lot of voters.

Perception is also crucial. Many parents like to plan ahead for their children’s and grand-children’s future, and anything, like inheritance tax, that even looks like it might threaten to take away hard-earned goods that people have already paid tax on at least once, is viewed with distrust by many who don’t yet know whether they will be affected or not. They might not actually die for 20 or 30 years, but they will be voting many times before that, and so will their children and even grand-children.

AFAIK the older, wealthier and better educated sections of society are, broadly speaking, considerably more likely to turn out and vote. Politicians who do not offer policies that these people want are likely to fail to get elected. Sad, but true.

Finally, I don’t know about you, Rupert, but having an anarchic streak, I view with revulsion an engorged and ever more oppressive State, like the one we have now, which arrogates ever greater amounts of money and power to itself, even - or especially - when it claims it is for our own good / equality / motherhood and apple pie.


http://www.hbosplc.com/media/pressreleases/articles/halifax/2006-03-18-00.asp

“Around 6% of estates are estimated to pay IHT this year (35,000). The number has more than doubled since 1996/97 (15,000). (Sources: Inland Revenue, HMT Pre-Budget Report)”

http://money.guardian.co.uk/tax/inheritancetax/story/0,,2050999,00.html

“Research by Scottish Widows found that almost one in four households in the UK have a total estate valued at more than the new £300,000 threshold for death duty.”

11 October 2007 at 20:25  
Blogger weggis said...

Quite so Dot.

The 6% are those who are dying now. The house ownership boom occurred post war through the 50s, 60s and 70s fuelled by the right to buy in the 80s. This also coincided with a boom in company pensions schemes and lump sums. Mostly these people are still with us and as you say have a VOTE. I think Scottish widows may be under-estimating.

Added to this the IHT threshold has nowhere near matched the rise in average house prices let alone those in the south east and especially London.

So, “BIG” houses eh Rupert? You need to get out more mate. A 2 Up 2 Down mid terrace in “economically deprived” Newham now fetches £250,000, and elsewhere they fetch in excess of £300,000. To get a “big” house round here mate you need £5million.

And what’s this nonsense about most people with a house worth over £300,000 have mortgages or high levels of personal debt. We are talking death duty here, most will have paid off the mortgage by the time they die. And remember today’s old lived through WWII and rationing. They have a different mentality to today’s youngsters. They are not profligate, they are the prudent generation.

It is the young who are fuelling our crazy economy with crippling personal debt, and who ironically would presumably benefit from the GP IHT policy to increase that spiral of madness. In addition, IHT encourages the elderly to spend it before they die – jetting round the world every 5 minutes, buy a hummer, fuelling consumerism and the depletion of our planet and it’s resources.

I would rather we delegated responsibility to individuals to benefit their children. Make them responsible adults, who pay fair tax when it’s due to help those in need? There is a statue outside the TUC building where the big guy is helping the little guy up off the floor. Take away the big guy and the little guy stays on the floor.

12 October 2007 at 00:02  

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25. 26. Will it be the Tories or the Greens who offer 'Green leadership'? 27. 28.

29.
Events, dear Prime Minister, events... Cameron's unexpectedly impressive polls-bouncing Conference speech - on the back of a 'populist' (though appallingly regressive) pledge to give tens of thousands of pounds to the children of dead near-millionaires - seems to have changed the landscape somewhat. The prospects of a November poll are receding a little. Unless Labour's private polling over the next few days indicates a recovery of the Labour lead to at least 7 points (which remains altogether possible), I now believe that Brown will probably not go this year.
And what of the content of Cameron's speech? The line that struck me the most was this: "what we must be is the party of sensible, Green leadership, and that is exactly what we are going to stay". "Sensible" is code for "not actually proposing to do very much". But it must nevertheless worry every Green Party member that Cameron - the Leader the Party of the super-rich and of John Redwood - can so much as talk about the Conservatives as exhibiting "Green leadership", and seemingly get away with it. The Conservatives as Green leaders is a total joke; it's the equivalent of New Labour claiming to be true socialists or the LibDems claiming not to be opportunists... But Cameron does get away with it, because of how invisible the Green Party is on the national media stage. (That we have some local and regional media impact where we are strong does not gainsay our deeply-worrying lack of national coverage, at the very time when 'our issues' are more prominent on the national stage than they have ever been.) We were quoted in none of the newspaper articles which quoted this line from Cameron's speech.
And, while it is true that there is naturally bias against us in the corporate media, it is inaccurate sour grapes for us to blame the corporate media alone for this lack of coverage of the Green Party. The truth is that, despite real strength in our top target areas (we are at last truly in contention, in seats like Brighton Pavillion and Norwich South), we are in low single-figures in the national polls, and we still lack a single MP. We need to give the media a reason to take us seriously, so that they start conveying our message to the public for us for free, as they already do with Cameron's vapidities. If it is after all going to be 2-3 years before we can get our first MPs, then we need to take maximum advantage of that period. We need to show - now- that we are serious about taking power in the existing system, which is of course what we are going to have to do before we can transform that system.
If the Green Party is to have any hope of competing on an equal footing with Cameron, Brown and Campbell, then we need to be ready to _show_ the public our leadership. The first symbol of this must be for us to move to having a national Leader. When someone like Caroline Lucas is empowered to respond directly, on an equal footing, to Cameron, then we might start seeing the kind of poll bounce that the Conservatives right now are delighting in. I say to my fellow Greens ((and to the rest of you, dear readers: do join! Just click the button at left to get started!...)): Lets be the Party of radical Green leadership -- lets show that that is what we are going to stay, by giving our Leader the tools to do the job. Radical policy prescriptions are what is sensible, at this tipping-point in history. Let's give ourselves a shot at power, when the world desperately needs us to have that power. Let's lead, proudly and without apology.
30. 31. 32.