Saturday 19 April 2008

After his American success, Gordon must show that he intends to make work pay for all

When Mr Brown went to America, he was rather successful, despite the wishful thinking of the accompanying press corps. The absence of a BA charter and the simultaneous presence of the Pope did nothing to prevent great pictures from his meetings with the presidential candidates or his well-received speech at the Kennedy library, and his tone at the Bush meeting was more appropriate than his first Stateside foray.

But all this was to no avail because of the row over the 10p tax rate back home. The PM's briefers say that Brown is furious about the fuss. However, those who are complaining about the change do have one particularly strong point: why should the low paid who are working face a cut in their take-home pay in order to provide tax cuts for those who are better off and (presumably) to subsidise benefits for those who can't be bothered to get a job? And there are many who don't get tax credits. That's why Frank Field is so incensed about all this, and the Treasury does need to find a way to address his concerns - it should be in the business of incentivising work and disincentivising those who can work but won't do so.

The best way to do this would be to lift the threshold below which no taxes are paid, but clearly that is not affordable at the moment - something Dodgy Dave refuses to recognise in his opportunism, where he has not told us how he would pay for his restoration of the 10p tax rate (which Tories who know better rightly think is daft). In its absence, the Treasury does need to find a temporary fix to the problem. The MPs who are protesting this time are not the usual suspects opposing progressive change, though it is odd some are only doing so now. But they have a good point. And it needs to be answered by a commitment to measures that show the government wants to make work pay, not just for those with children, but for everyone.

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