Three Prime Ministers and four Chancellors in four months was the visible face of chaos at the heart of the Tory government. And chaos there was as global markets lost confidence, the pound plummeted and interest rates and the cost of living shot up.
With Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in office we’re told the grown-ups are now in charge. It’s true and only fair to note that the markets have calmed down but as I write the government’s first real test comes ahead whilst for you reading you’ll know what Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Financial Statement has done.
For me the tests are simple ones. We know there will be winners and losers and we know that some tough choices have to be made.
The first question for the Chancellor is will he make cuts in our vital public services and keep wages down for those, like nurses, teachers or pensioners who are struggling with rocketing prices? That would be simply wrong.
The next question, just as important, is will he make ordinary families and households bear a big share of tax increases and cuts to vital public services or will he ask those who can afford it to pick up the lion’s share? We know the Banks have done well as interest rates have put money in their balances. We know the energy companies have had windfall profits shoved into their accounts with no work involved and just a thank you to those market forces which make the consumer cough up more and more.
So will the Banks and energy giants who can afford to pay windfall taxes, be asked to pay a serious contribution? If not, why not?
And those on high incomes are not really going to leave these shores in droves if we expect them to pay a fairer proportion at a time of national need. Non-Doms, those people who live amongst us for years but choose to pay their taxes at much lower rates in other countries, should be told that the game is up. They can pay a fairer chunk. Other countries tax unearned wealth which has accumulated over the decades or even centuries. So we should ask the very wealthy to make their contribution.
This isn’t the politics of envy, it’s about the choices a decent Chancellor must make for us to live in a fairer society where the strong help the weak and the better off help those in need.
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 19 November 2022.