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Seeing eye-to-eye

Gavin Allen | 12:10 UK time, Thursday, 25 September 2008

You wouldn't know it from their lemon-sucking body language and name-calling, but John Prescott and Charles Clarke did actually agree on something on The Politics Show this week.

Politics show logoWhen the former deputy prime minister wasn't calling the former home secretary a "bitterite" who was "selling Labour short" - and in return being accused of, electorally, "walking into a wall" - they took time out from standing toe-to-toe to see eye-to-eye over tax.

Specifically, a hike for the rich and a break for the poor.

For John Prescott, this would "draw the line and show the difference between us and the Tories."

For Charles Clarke, it would "shift taxation to a fairness basis."

Charles Clarke and John PrescottOr as one viewer in our audience put it more baldly: "income redistribution and doing something for the basic people who support the party."

All of which essentially meant the same thing - we help the poor, David Cameron helps himself and his rich friends.

And Gordon Brown was also happy this week to paint demon eyes on the Conservatives.

"Yes friends," he warned in a doom-laden Jaws theme tune kind of way, "they would even take away Sure Start from infants and their parents." - A rather less rhythmic echo of Thatcher Thatcher milk-snatcher.

For Labour activists, at least it's a core truth that if you're poor, you're better off with Labour.

But policy-wise is it actually true?

In his anxiety to be "on the side of people on middle and modest incomes", Gordon Brown is accused of neglecting the very poorest and leaving the door open for the Conservatives to nip in and steal New Labour's oldest clothes.

Minimum wage, Sure Start, New Deal - water under the bridge say the Tories.

We're the "party of the poor" now.

Not just in backbencher Iain Duncan Smith's trips to the streets of Easterhouse, nor in attacks on 10p tax plans and Vehicle Excise Duty but, they say, through hard policies: from prisoner rehabilitation and welfare reform to free schools and recognising the value of marriage in the tax system.

This weekend on The Politics Show, we'll test that claim with their former leadership contender David Davis and residents on one of England's poorest estates.

As the party prepares for its conference in Birmingham, could tackling poverty - and not cutting tax - prove its electoral trump card?

And, if it works, an enduring one too?

John Prescott would certainly have something to say about that.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hmmm.. But isn't this moving from New Labour 'stealth redistribution' to old Labour 'shout it from the rooftops' redistribution ?

    The attacks on short-sellers garner good headlines. The proposals by Clarke and Prezza may get some more positive feedback.

    The calls by the unions in the past week for a windfall tax on the public utilities got a lot of support..

    But how much further down this road are they going ? One swallow doesn't make a summer, but soon we will have half a dozen such birds.

    And it is then a short step to the papers being able to say that the 'New Labour' brand is dead, and it is back to the good ole' 'tax and spend' party of the past, with the Golden Rule out of the window and the unions back in charge.

    That might not be accurate, but anything which shows that the Prezza contingent have the whip hand is unlikely to bring back the 'magic formula' which Blair used to win 3 elections on the spin..

    Rather as with Gordon's cheap publicity seeking 'blame game' over the financial turmoil being sourced in America, this could be another public relations catastrophe in the making..

  • Comment number 2.

    Can you use the English language, please? Tax
    hike and break?? What most people in the UK would call an increase and cut. Most people on the "streets of Easterhouse" would not understand you. And most people outside the UK would understand increase and cut.

  • Comment number 3.

    uhh 2 - where on earth do you come from? every party talks about a 'tax break' when they can, and try typing 'tax hike' into google - lots of uk political articles dating back a good few years - well known phrases

  • Comment number 4.

    But who is looking after the interests of the rich?

  • Comment number 5.

    Re message 4 KennethM

    The rich are looking after the rich if there is any truth in what we are being told about the "credit crisis".

  • Comment number 6.

    Didn't anyone notice? You don't have to go back to tax and spend because that is just exactly what New Labour has been doing for the past 10 years.

  • Comment number 7.

    I thought the problem in the UK was that no party represents the "poor". New Labour spun their way into power by pretending to be Labour members when their credentials were unashamedly Tory. And as if to rub salt in the wounds New Labour have increased and deepened the tax loading on the more needy and introduced a massively expensive credit system that means millions are on "benefit" just to make ends meet. At the other end we have billionaires whose income is hardly touched by the tax system.

    The political failure in this is there for all to see in the last election where Blair was elected by only 22% of those who could vote.

    I will not be trusting any New Labour politician to look after me. But the problem is looking for an alternative. The Lib Dems briefly flirted with higher tax rates setting them apart but even they have lost their bottle. So what are the parties trying to achieve? Are they "forcing" people to accept the lesser of the evils? And if this is what politics is supposed to be about then I find it sadly lacking in polemic and passion.

    I look at people like Miliband, Cameron and Clegg and cringe. These are not leaders they are mouthpieces, and the likes of Prescott and Clarke are the Judas' who betrayed millions of socialists who believe there is something much better than out and out capitalism.

  • Comment number 8.

    Bully baiter is right. But, New labour has always been old labour but in better suits. They knew that nationalistion of industries didn't work so they cleverly decided that their control over all our lives and the equalisation that is LCD (lowest common denominator) could be achieved by making thousands more regulations, targets and rules thus creating around 1 million new jobs in bureacracy in quangos, committees and especially in local government. So millions become totally dependant on government viz. Taxpayers money.
    Not making anything, just pushing paper round and controlling everything.

  • Comment number 9.

    Certainly the LCD politics has been successful in picking off potential opposition by closing the avenues individuals could once negotiate.

    In both private and public sectors we now have a conformity to which all workers must subscribe which rewards mediocrity and derides individuality. It is no wonder that our politicians have less sparkle than a eunuch.

    I also fear for the travesty of injustice reaped upon the majority of women by the feminist movement. Promised independence and equality what have they got? Access to poorly paid, part time work, helping to not only devalue their incomes but also the incomes of the male workers by their sides. And yet we have the hypocrisy of women like Harriet Harman daring to criticise women who choose to go into the sex industry and at least increase their chances of total independence and security.

    Yes, the age of LCD has well and truly gripped us in the most painful of places.

    And what of all the consultancies being paid six and seven figure incomes for a few weeks work in stating the obvious? What of the IT companies running on Government investment who fail to deliver projects and are still paid? Who is monitoring this deplorable state of affairs and do they care?

    And how can New Labour stand idle on Council Tax when they screamed and shouted about it when in opposition? And didn't that happen on Prescott's watch and wasn't he found "forgetting" his legal duties for paying his CT?

    And as one scumbag leaves Government so another takes their place. I am not sure how long you have to scream in the UK before someone listens but it seems to be forever and sooner or later you stop and do something much more serious.

    Yes, LCDs are usually flat.....

  • Comment number 10.

    "I attended the Wimbledon Men's Singles Finals accompanied by a guest, at the invitation of the British Broadcasting Corporation." From George Osborne's record of gifts in 2007.

    I just wonder why the BBC is inviting the Shadow Chancellor to a Wimbledon Men's Final - could this be explained please?



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