The Tories are looking pretty pleased with their shadow chancellor’s inheritance tax plan but Brown’s on his way back to town – and he’s going to wipe the smile off their smug faces.
Osborne may be… er… uncharismatic but he’s a useful politician. The inheritance tax announcement was about the only thing that stood a chance of digging the Tories’ out of their present electoral hole – and his method of funding the cut is clever and politically cost-free. The fact that it’ll affect hardly anyone (despite the shameless lies about the number of households affected in the announcement) and that it would be the least progressive change to taxation in generations hardly matters. Inheritance tax is a dead duck.
Death tax is anachronistic (it’s got more to do with the exigencies of mediaeval warmaking than with funding modern public services) and it’s socially indefensible (don’t talk to me about the inefficiencies of intergenerational capital transfer. There’s an unarguable emotional logic to leaving your money to your kids: we’re programmed to do it).
The problem for Osborne and the Tories, though, is that in Gordon Brown’s muscular, Tony Soprano-style world his death tax policy is fair game. Absolutely nothing – not courtesy, not scruple, not Westminster clubbishness – will stop Brown from simply copying this policy. In Brown’s political New Jersey opponents are dumb resources, unworthy of respect.
Beating up the Tories and stealing their shiny new death tax idea would be a casual, pre-breakfast flick of the wrist for bullyboy Brown. I wouldn’t be surprised if he even nicked the non-dom funding wheeze along with it. And you know what, I think I like this kind of disrespectful, butch, smash-and-grab politics. Death tax is finished anyway (only an idiot – or a Liberal – would go into an election campaign with the current thresholds in place) so Brown might as well get on with it. I can almost see him lacing up his shit kicking boots on the plane back from Iraq.
Here we go. Here we go. Here we go…