Stealth taxes out, hikes for the rich in
Remember Tony Blair signing an election poster pledging that neither the basic nor the top rate of tax would go up under Labour?
Remember him saying that he didn't go into politics to stop David Beckham becoming a millionaire?
Remember Peter Mandelson saying that he was "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich"?
Those days are over.
Stealth tax rises are out. Overt tax hikes on the rich are in.
• In the name of fairness.
• To cheer Labour's supporters.
• To wrong-foot their opponents.
• To distract the media.
• Oh, and to raise money (although the Institute of Fiscal Studies has questioned whether increasing the top tax rate will raise much).
Their hope is that tomorrow's headlines will be dominated by questions about Labour's breach of their manifesto pledge and that the Tories will be asked for months to come whether they will reverse that tax rise or not.
What they know is that opinion polls show that higher taxes on the rich are now popular in the way they once were not.
What they also know is that David Cameron and George Osborne will come under pressure from the Tory press and Tory bloggers to promise to reverse this measure.
What they also know is that that is a more comfortable place to be politically than answering questions about why the chancellor's just confirmed the deepest recession, the fastest rise in unemployment and the biggest rise in borrowing since the war.
UPDATE, 14:01: A scan of the Treasury's Red Book of Budget stats suggests that that headline-grabbing rise in the top rate of tax will actually raise less than increased fuel duty (up 2p a litre in September) and the squeeze on public spending.
As I wrote earlier, stealth spending cuts have replaced stealth tax rises as the principal tool of the Treasury.
UPDATE, 14:06: For those who like the figures, the new top rate of income tax will raise an estimated £1,130m next year and the pension claw-back a mere £100m, whereas the fuel duty increase will raise £1,250m.
UPDATE, 16:25: Those nice people from the Treasury have called to point out important footnotes to the table of statistics which I quoted.
These - they tell me - show that eventually the rise in the top rate of income tax and the clawing back of tax relief on pension contributions will raise more than fuel duty.
On pensions they estimate that £3.1bn will be raised by 2012-3. Why the delay? Because, they tell me, of the lag caused by the self-assessment of tax.
In addition, if you take into account the chancellor's previous announcement raising the top rate of tax to 45%, the total amount raised by higher income tax in 2012-13 is estimated to be £2.4bn.
In the same year the withdrawl of personal allowances (announced in the PBR) would, they hope, raise a significant £1.5bn.
Their message, in summary, is that these tax changes are not merely symbolic or political - they will raise real money - eventually.
Of course, there will be no similar lag before people feel the pain at the fuel or beer pump.