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The five political lessons from Ed Miliband and the 10p tax

February 15th, 2013

Henry G Manson on the LAB leader’s big speech

Aside from the policy itself, I take five political points from the Labour leader’s announcement that his party would return the 10p tax rate and fund it through a ‘mansion tax’.

1) Ed Miliband really isn’t afraid to distance himself from former boss Gordon Brown. This policy stance reminds of one of Brown’s biggest political mistakes and the Labour leader defines himself against it. Ed seems very at ease with that. Bet Gordon’s not.

2) Labour is still wooing Lib Dems. The explicit reference of the mansion tax draws attention to a clear Liberal Democrat policy . By ‘borrowing’ it to fund the 10p tax Labour can look collegiate while at the same time highlight the Lib Dem inability to implement such a measure in a Tory-led government.

3) Ed Miliband does policy. His critics say he dithers, supporters says he considers things carefully. Some misguided souls thought the Labour leader’s absence of policy to date was a reflection of the inability of the leader or the shadow cabinet to reach a decision. Not one bit. Whatever you say about the Milibands, they do policy. What else is in the locker? We’ll have to wait and see. The cupboard isn’t bare. It’s padlocked.

4) Dividing lines haven’t disappeared. Ed Balls has criticised both Brown and Osborne for doing this, yet here’s a great big double-yellow dividing line painted on the Chancellor’s back with this announcement. It’s not subtle. Tories back the rich, Labour help the (working) poor. Let’s be honest. The 10p tax is probably only worth a couple of quid a week. In itself it won’t exactly transform lives. The value is being able to show low waged workers that ‘the party is on your side’.

5) Labour is relearning the skills of Opposition.By announcing this policy now Labour takes hold of the right political terrain before its opponents can. Backing a 10p tax now increases the pressure on George Osborne a touch ahead of his Budget. If he’s not offering something new for low paid workers then what is he doing and for whom? There is always chance that the Chancellor was listening to astute Conservatives such as Robert Halfon MP and considering backing such a proposal in the future. He may have been stalled by the Lib Dems who have little enthusiam for it. Either way, adopting such a policy becomes politically less appealing from today. No party wants to be seen to dancing to its rivals’ tune.

But the biggest practical political impact from the 10p tax commitment is that the Coalition will not be able to accuse Labour of having no policies. The 2015 general election contest has begun.

Henry G Manson