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Blair's Last 100 Days

by Londonbear Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 06:17:33 AM EST

The next two weeks will see the start of Tony Blair's last 100 days as Prime Minister. The provisional timetable was agreed by the Labour Party National Executive over the weekend.

BBC's Newsnight programme suggested that the handover to a new Prime Minister will take place on 2 July but I believe this more likely be the following week on 9 July for a couple of reasons.

Meanwhile Gordon Brown, Blair's likely successor and current Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) presented an overtly "green" budget on Wednesday which put up annual taxes on "gas guzzlers" and reduced it on environmentally friendly measures.

Over from the diaries - afew


The timetable agreed by Labour is that following Blair's resignation there will be a seven week election period for the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Party. This will continue even if Brown is unopposed and he will be expected to attend the election "hustings" with party members held round the country.

The elections themselves are within an electoral college consisting of the Parliamentary Party, ordinary Party members and the Trades Union affiliated to the Party. There will be a special conference to hold the election. This is most likely to take place over a weekend.

The key date here is the day of the elections for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and local government outside London. This "super Thursday" is on 3 May with the results likely to be finalised late on Friday. The counts take longer as the Scottish and Welsh elections are under proportional representation. The final result is only available when the numbers of "top up" seats can be determined.

The following Monday is a national "Bank" holiday so the earliest Blair is likely to resign is May 8 or 9. The agreed timetable would mean the Conference would be over the weekend of 30 June / 1 July and that is Newsnight's suggestion. My own feeling is that it is more likely to be the following weekend 7/8 July. There are a couple of reasons for this.

The first is a fairly fine one. Labour are expected to do badly in the elections and are likely to lose their majority in Wales. They could even lose the position of largest party in Scotland to the Scottish Nationalists who could get a majority over the current Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition. Blair would not want to be seen to be resigning because of this defeat. As I said it is a fine point as there could be an increasing clamour for it and to go only a week later would make the impression of being hounded from office even worse.

The second is a more minor matter. The changeover normally happens at Buckingham Palace where the outgoing Prime Minister resigns and the new one is invited to form an administration by the Monarch. If you have seen the movie "The Queen", you will recall the scene where Blair became PM. It looks however like the Queen will be in Scotland that weekend as she is holding an official garden party at Holyroodhouse Castle in Edinburgh on that Wednesday. I presume that that will be after a holiday in Balmoral. It is quite feasible for her to travel down to London to enable the "kissing hand" or even for it to happen in Scotland but Brown would not like either. It will remind the public of his origins at a time when he is emphasising his "Britishness". The following week however she is holding a garden party at Buckingham Palace so would naturally be in London. That would make Blair's last day in office Monday 9 July.

Brown's budget contained a number of environmental measures:

Home front

The Chancellor promised to encourage cuts in emissions from homes, which he said accounted for a quarter of the UK's total carbon output, including:

    * grants worth £300-£4,000 for pensioners installing insulation and central heating in their homes;
    * consultations with banks and building societies to develop new mortgage products for investment in energy efficiency;
    * a zero rate of stamp duty to be paid on new homes costing less than £500,000 which have a zero carbon footprint till 2012;
    * £6m extra for the Low Carbon Buildings Fund; and
    * a push to find ways of making it more lucrative for people to sell energy generated by systems such as solar panels back to the National Grid.

Car tax

As for transport, Mr Brown announced that fuel duty would go up 2p a litre in 2007 and 2008 and 1.8p in 2009 - although this year's increase is to be delayed till October.

The rise in VED (annual road tax) for Band G cars - which include not only 4x4s but also some large people carriers and estate cars - was accompanied by a £10 rise for Band F vehicles, the next most polluting cars.

But while the least polluting Band A cars will continue to pay no VED, the next cleanest in Band B will see their rate cut to £35 from £50 for diesels and £40 for petrol cars.

And biofuels, which Mr Brown said helped fulfil the government's obligations on renewable fuels, would have their 20p a litre duty reduction extended to 2010, with the 40p a litre reduction for biogas extended to 2012.

Mr Brown said he had asked Sir Nicholas Stern - author of the Stern Review - to work with Professor Julia King of Aston University on developing "the next generation of low and no carbon vehicles".

In other environmental taxes, the Chancellor said he was raising landfill tax from its current rate of £24 a tonne by £8 a year till 2011, and boosting the aggregate tax which penalises quarrying from £1.60 to £1.95 a tonne.

The Climate Change Levy on businesses is to go up in line with inflation from April 2008 and is to be simplified, the Chancellor said.

International action

As for the international dimension, Mr Brown noted that the EU had made a binding commitment to cut carbon emissions by 20% below the 1990 level by 2020.

The UK, he said, had reached a range of deals on environmental issues such as biofuels and clean coal with countries from Brazil to China.

And he promised £50m to a 10-country initiative to protect rainforests in Central Africa, as well as £800m to the government's Environmental Transformation Fund.

These are clearly designed to present himself as greener than the Leader of the Opposition. He ridiculed several suggestions for environmental taxes that he had put forward, notable Value Added Tax on domestic air travel. This would not form much of a deterrent as businesses can reclaim it.

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Meanwhile Gordon Brown, Blair's likely successor and current Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) presented an overtly "green" budget on Wednesday which put up annual taxes on "gas guzzlers" and reduced it on environmentally friendly measures.

He also eliminated the lowest (10%) tax rate, which (when taking into account that the main rate wnt from 22% to 20%) means that people making less than about £17k will pay more taxes, and those making more than £18k will pay less taxes.

He also increased the threshold for the higher tax rate (40%) from about £30k to about £40k, and increased the threshold for the inheritance tax by 25%.

He also raised the exemption on capital gains taxes (which is about twice the exemption for income tax).

There are some compensatory measures such as an increase in child benefit and working tax credit, and a higher tax exemption (and other goodies) for pensioners but clearly Brown is not trying to get the vote of people making less than £20k. And they call themselves the Labour Party.

(Source)

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 11:48:44 AM EST
I don't blame him for raising the threshold on the high bracket for income taxes.  £40k -- £24k after income taxes -- would be a fairly nice living in Nottingham, but a good chunk of the £40k+ crowd is living in and around London, I suspect, and, after taxing away 40% of it, you're not left with a whole hell of a lot to live on there.

That said, £17k/yr doesn't go very far in England, even outside of the hyper-expensive areas.  Those people shouldn't be paying more tax.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 12:10:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's the capital gains tax and the inheritance tax part that really gets me. We know who he thinks are the swing voters.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 12:19:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What are the rates on capital gains, and the threshold on inheritance?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 12:45:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From the BBC link in my comment above:
# Tax exemption for capital gains will rise from £8,800 to £9,200, and will be £18,400 for married couples.
# Inheritance tax will threshold to rise from £285,000 now to £350,000 in 2010.
Capital gains tax also has three rate brackets, taxed at 10%, 20% and 40% like income used to be.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 12:54:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
40% is the marginal rate, which used to kick in at £30k and not kicks in later. So if you made £40k you paid something like 25%. It's £30k after taxes, not £24k.

He's giving these people £2k each by taking a couple hundred away from the working poor.

And a lot of service jobs in the London area are below £17k a year.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 12:25:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and now kicks

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 12:32:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even £30k after taxes doesn't go very far in London, but you're, of course, quite right that there are people making far less.  As we discussed last summer, I don't know how anyone lives on £17k or less.  Bless their hearts, because they're clearly sharper than I.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 12:44:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hunger sharpens wit, we say in Spain (el hambre aguza el ingenio)

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 12:46:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Necessity is a mother...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 04:11:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And poor people are very environmentally friendly. Reuse is the best recycling.

You would not believe what those rich people throw away!

Or maybe you would, if you do not know how to survive on less then 17 000 £ a year...

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 07:41:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I asked the props man on the TV series to find me an old copying machine that still spat out paper, but the copy could be poor. I wanted some old model from the 80's. He searched for 2 days and then reported back that there weren't any - they are refurbished and then go to Africa to help small businesses, in some Finnish government aid system!

Great I said - we can live without it - better they are recycled. (I have a felling I'm going to end up with someone hiding inside the shell of an old copier and pushing papers out thru the slot ;-)  )

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 01:41:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, that is great.

'Bout the copier problem, I would put a modern printer in the shell to push papers out. Though it would probably get a false paper jam at the wrong time. Or check with Estonia, I think Sweden sent over some in the early 90'ies.

I know you were probably just kidding about hiding someone, but I can not risk having to translate more from swedish so I am not letting you stuff someone in an old copier. Therefore I had to give you some technical solutions instead...

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 04:12:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I do live on a bit less than £17K and no, I don't work a service job -- or in a sector normally associated with low pay.

After being annoyed at the tax announcement and calculating how much worse off I'll be, I'm seeing it as an excellent indication that it's high time to leave for a better job!

'It depends on which research report you read,'says Hattie, 'and sorry about this, but I do tend to believe the ones that suit me.'

by JQL (deinikoi at gmail dot com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 02:02:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's high time to get rid of New Labour!

Apparently the Labour party is delighted with this budget because it helps them against the Tories!

<snark>If you get a higher-paying job, the new budget will have succeeded! Hooray fot tax incentives!</snark>

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 02:22:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Alas, I am on the way to work and can't sit down to have a really thoughtful discussion. This evening...

In the strictest personal sense, yes, using this unwelcome change in circumstance to change employment is a 'success' of the policy. I'm sure there'll even be economists who'll say it'll force employers to pay more for talent, whatever that means.  
However, I can only do so because it's an option for me. There are loads of people for whom this is not an option and frankly, the flattening of the tax code is one I find revolting.

The trouble with the political system currently is that we don't really have a Left and Right wing in the UK. More like two Right wings, each with a highly neo-liberal and authoritarian bent. It is time to get rid of New Labour -- it's been time to do so for years, over a variety of causes, but far more importantly, it's time to get rid of the thinking of New Labour. And that's a far harder disease to get rid of, unfortunately.

-------

'It depends on which research report you read,'says Hattie, 'and sorry about this, but I do tend to believe the ones that suit me.'

by JQL (deinikoi at gmail dot com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 02:59:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, clearly the LibDems are to the left of New Labour.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 04:34:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not entirely clear whether or not the Tories are.

This was a despicable Sheriff of Nottingham budget from Brown, bribing the middle classes and the City at the expense of the poor.

But it makes no sense politically, because the tax on gas guzzlers, will be seen as disproportionately important and a personal affront by those middle classes - even though in financial terms it's almost irrelevant.

There's something of the klutz about Brown. He seems to take a rather smug pride in his canny Scottish nous, but in fact he's politically naive and socially inept. He more or less understands neo-liberal financial theory, and knows how to give it a bit of a populist gloss. But I suspect he doesn't understand politics at all.

I wouldn't be surprised if he calls a snap election on the basis of the ineffable wonderfulness of this budget, and then gets his arse kicked out of the stadium by the Tories.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 05:47:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Cameron's actions match his words, -- a big if, in my opinion, but that may be largely the result of Cameron using a ton of Bush's pseudo-centrist talking points from 2000 (which makes me suspicious) -- I think the Tories might well qualify as being more liberal than Labour, at this point.  The parties seem to have come to an informal consensus on the government's total tax take at about 40% of national income.  How they get to that 40% is the big question, followed by the question of how they spend it.

I quite agree on this budget being a Sheriff of Nottingham one.  I have no problem with raising the threshold a bit on the top bracket, but raising taxes on people earning less than £16k -- I think £16k is the break-even point, if I remember the BBC report -- to pay for it is disgusting, and you're right in saying that it wreaks of vote-buying with the middle- and upper-class workers.  Why not raise the threshold, cut the baseline, but add a fourth bracket at (say) £60-80k of 45-50%?  If he wants to throw a bone to the middle class, great, but don't pull it out of the back of the poor.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 09:43:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but the LibDems are morons who'll never go anywhere, as always.  Never in my (so far admittedly very short) life did I imagine I'd see a party more politically stupid than the American Dems, but somehow they pulled it off.  Both the Tories and LibDems are playing the John Kerry game: "Labour sucks.  But we won't change the basic structure.  We'll just do it a bit better."

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 09:48:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know how anyone lives on £17k or less.

Heh. I live on less than half of that, and I'm significantly better off than colleagues without diplomas.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 08:05:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are certainly places in England where one can -- or, at least could prior to this budget -- live alright on much less than £17k.  I did when I was in Notts.  I think I was going on a bit more than half that amount, and I was in decent shape.  (I'd have no retirement savings if I lived on it throughout my worklife, but it was enough to pay the bills and live in a decent area.)  But Nottingham is, obviously, not London, in terms of prices.

How does Budapest stack up against London, as far as cost of living is concerned?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 09:29:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to one 2006 list, around 44%, so that would put me squarely at your limit. But as I said, collagues without diplomas earn much less than I do.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 09:54:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to HM Revenue & Customs, the UK median income before tax was 16 400 £ in 2004-2005

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 11:34:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right, but when I say I don't see how anyone lives on less than £17k, I'm speaking of people in and around London.  As I said, £17k isn't bad in a city like Nottingham.  Let's assume two income earners and call it £35k, gross, for simplicity in 2006/7.  Deduct the personal allowance, which is, I think, about £5-6,000, and you get 20% on £30k.  So we're talking a bit under £30k in net income, right?

Not great, but not overwhelmingly terrible.  In Nottingham, that would probably get you a terraced house in a half-decent neighborhood between Lenton and the City Centre.  I don't have a great idea of what it gets you in London.  I know that a decent flatshare in the East End can be had for about £400/month, -- a fair bit of room, close to the Underground, etc -- but that's my only point of reference, since I've never lived there and haven't done much research on the city.  There may be stuff going for quite a bit less.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 12:14:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Er... £23k is not "a bit under £30k".

The problem is the single person making £15k. They get to keep £12k so they have £1000 left after taxes. A studio flat in London will cost at least £500/mo. Add council tax, utilities, a monthly travelcard for at least £100/mo, food and clothing, and things start to get a little tight.

A couple sharing a 1 bedroom flat with two incomes are clearly much better off.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 12:22:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A bit under £30k: £35k - £5k = £30k.  £30k x .8 = £24k.  Add the allowance to get about £29k.  Or is the fact that I'm not an accountant showing?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 12:27:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, you're right. I think it's the fact I'm a mathematician that is showing. ;-)

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 01:31:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure, but I think it's safe to say that we'd make a horrible accounting partnership. ;)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 23rd, 2007 at 09:07:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is, however, important to remember the erosion at PPP, as Mig has pointed out on numerous occasions.  A £30k combined income for a couple gets you more in America than it does in Britain, generally.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Mar 22nd, 2007 at 12:24:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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