On 29 August Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg floated the idea of a “wealth tax” on Britain’s wealthiest. Clegg’s call for a “time-limited contribution” from the super-rich is motivated by a fear of further social unrest.
Relations are getting worse between the coalition partners, and the Tory right was swift in denouncing Clegg’s proposals as the “politics of envy”. Chancellor George Osborne also poured cold water on the idea.
Labour’s response was equally predictable and demonstrates the party’s utter failure to offer an alternative which goes beyond sound-bites and parliamentary manoeuvring. Bereft of positive proposals, the shadow Treasury minister said: “Nick Clegg is once again taking the British people for fools. He talks about a tax on the wealthiest, but he voted for the tax cut for millionaires in George Osborne’s budget.”
A wealth tax is not a radical proposal. Variations of it already exist in France, Norway, Switzerland, and several other countries. Labour should be supporting a severe and permanent wealth tax as a very basic plank of any social democratic programme.
That the loudest exponent of a wealth tax in this country is an opportunist right-wing Liberal is a damning indictment of the Labour Party opposition.