Tory press side with the rich over Labour’s ‘war on non-doms’

Bogus fears of rich people fleeing the country reveal the newspapers' class allegiances


While the Conservative party, via the blimpish figure of defence secretary Michael Fallon, aims its guns at Labour’s (actually settled) position on Trident, the Tory press has mobilised its heavy weapons against Labour’s pledge to tax non-domiciles if elected in May. But the papers’ efforts are hampered by some massive contradictions, not to say hypocrisies, and inadvertently reveal their class allegiances.

Last night’s free Evening Standard ran with ‘London backlash over Ed’s non-dom attack’ on its front page, telling commuters that ‘furious business chiefs’ were accusing Miliband of ‘risking London’s global success’ by driving away the rich.

Standard non-doms

Today’s Telegraph front page yells that Labour’s policy could ‘spark an exodus’ of tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, while its editorials warn Labour’s war on non-doms could ‘cost Britain dear’.

The coverage also stresses that there is already an annual levy that non-doms have to pay, introduced by the Labour party in 2008 at £30,000 per year, with George Osborne in December saying he’ll raise to up to £90,000. (The Telegraph even suggests Labour stole the idea of a levy from Osborne in the first place.)

But this accidentally raises the question: why didn’t the annual levy cause non-doms to flee the country? Was the Tory chancellor also showing ‘contempt for wealth creation’ when he pledged to treble the charge four months ago?

At the same time, the papers say Labour’s tax plan won’t raise much money anyway. Well, if that’s the case, why say non-doms will leave Britain to avoid paying it?

Another bizarre part of the attack has been the claim these 114,000 non-dom pay billions in taxes into the treasury already – £8.2billion in 2012/13, or the equivalent of all the tax revenues for 10 million lower-band taxpayers. As the Daily Mail leader column puts it, “more than treble the £2.3billion contribution made by the 25 per cent lowest income tax payers.”

The Telegraph broadened the scope:

“Moreover, to say that the rich don’t pay their ‘fair share’ is confounded by the fact that nearly 30 per cent of income tax comes from the top 1 per cent of earners.”

Ah, the poor old 1 per cent! Occasionally, the Tory press lets slip their worship of wealth and resentment of progressive taxation. Some of us still believe people who have more should pay more. 

Speaking of the Daily Mail, it’s very interesting that the paper stops short of joining the Sun in criticising the ‘ridiculous’ hereditary passing-on of non-dom status from parent to child. On an unrelated note, in January Private Eye reported that Daily Mail chairman Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere, who inherited non-dom status from his father, channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of dividends through a trust registered in Bermuda.

Predictably, Labour’s proposal has earned it fiery editorials in the Tory press, (in marked contrast to the papers’ support for taking money away from poor people). The Telegraph writes: “If Mr Miliband is prepared to kill the golden goose for a cheap election stunt he is even less qualified to run this country than we thought.”

The Mail said “the Labour leader is playing a dangerous, disingenuous and dishonest game“, while the Sun said Miliband

“doesn’t give a damn if it works for Britain as long as it sounds good for Labour. […] What’s crucial to Miliband is securing Labour votes with his absurd pose as a class warrior against the rich.”

What they keep missing is that Ed Miliband is willing to adopt policies that risk upsetting his party’s doners, (some of whom are non-doms), if he thinks they will appear fair to the electorate. As these strange responses show, it’s not Miliband’s ‘class warrior pose’ but progressive politics itself the Tory press considers absurd.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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