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February 17, 2015


Steven Clarke

I had to look up what recrudescence meant. Guess I'll have to swot up a bit more before they let me into the 1%.

Luis Enrique

I think your main point is spot on, less so that tax evasion equivalent to 25% of the deficit cannot be considered a big problem. There are better critiques of Balls than claiming £23bn is a small number.


Jowell is surely lost to the defunct new labour cause. But to argue that in this instance “Balls seems to be inviting us” to do anything other than acknowledge, strictly speaking, the rules, is disingenuous. I prefer the notion that in his example case Balls deliberately chose a hedge trimmer to please his boss, to invite his boss to make the obvious comparison with hedge funds when asked about it – it’s not as if they wouldn’t have known that all broadcast journalism was prowling for opportunities to make irrelevant comparisons with the HSBC scandal.
And on the subject of being disingenuousness: IDS claimed on the BBC that working for cash was what you (the little people) do to get by. A competent, knowledgeable public service broadcaster would have asked him what consequences the DWP inflicts on the social security recipient (the scrounger) discovered getting by....

Dave Timoney

Forgive me for sounding cynical, but New Labour never went away. It obviously suits some to associate it with Blair & co, but Brown, Balls and Miliband are as much in thrall to neoliberalism (and the US Democrats) as Mandelson and Milburn ever were.

Consider yesterday's announcement of apprenticeships for every school-leaver who "gets the grades". This is part of a "middle-out" economic plan, inspired by Obama and lauded by Mandelson, which will shovel more government money towards big capital. New Labour is far from defunct.


I disagree. I think that this story illustrates two broader problems for the left.

The first problem arises because the most powerful aspects of the left’s appeal are moral integrity and a sense of fairness. That means that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes, including hedge cutters. The left argues, correctly, that the rich can avoid income tax primarily because they are not on PAYE and so can hide income from the tax man. However, that is also true for a self-employed hedge cutter. There is no moral integrity in an argument that says that Balls is attempting to “change the character of ordinary people” in suggesting that hedge cutters’ income should be declared, while at the same time arguing that it’s essential to change the character of other people who don’t pay their taxes. Of course, tax from hedge cutters won’t make much of a dent in the deficit. However, that’s not the point.

The second problem is the more fundamental question of whose side the left is on. When we had a manufacturing based economy it was easy to be on the side of “the workers” who were exploited by the evil capitalist factory owners. However, we now have a large service economy, so it’s more complicated and I don’t think that the left has thought this through.

Whose side is Balls on? It’s not “the worker” who has his hedge cut. He will probably have to pay more if the hedge cutter has to pay tax. It’s not “the worker” who cuts the hedge who, at minimum faces increased bureaucracy. Also, he either earns less due to paying tax or he has to raise his prices (risking a loss of customers) or he has to work harder and cut more hedges. Rather, Balls is on the side of “the system” which, in this case, represents all the other “the workers” in the economy who do pay their tax. However, there are many other examples which provide different service industry dilemmas.

When London tube drivers strike, should the left sympathise with “the workers” who are on strike or the much larger number of “the workers” who can’t get to work, and lose pay, because of the strike? Whose side is the left on?

When “the worker” joins British Gas and trains to install central heating, “the worker” might observe that British Gas is an inefficient bureaucracy which offers only mediocre service to its customers and then charges them a high price. If that “the worker” has enough initiative, he might then leave British Gas, set up his own business, and offer the customers a better and cheaper service than British Gas while, at the same time, earning more himself. The left has nothing at all to offer this “the worker” even though both “the worker” and his customers who are also “the workers” are better off. It’s not the lack of capital that prevents “the workers” from getting on in a service economy. Rather, it’s a lack of initiative. Whose side is the left on?

The left often objects to bureaucratic hierarchies and centralised management by remote bureaucracies which leave “the workers” feeling disempowered. Fair enough. However, if I were to look for the most glaring example of this in the UK today, I would nominate the state education system whose “the workers” are always on television telling us how miserable their lives are. However, it is the right (and New Labour) which wants to empower these “the workers” and break up the bureaucracy. It’s the right that wants to allow “the workers” who are parents more choice in where and how their children are educated. Whose side is the left on?

I don’t think that the left has come to terms with a service economy. It’s not Ed Balls just who needs to do more thinking.


@ from A to E

The art of the possible: forgive me my world weariness but isn’t it the case that entrenched beliefs (particularly self-serving ones) don’t just go away. They get pushed. Miliband and Balls can’t be heroes and don’t try, which is just as well IMHO.

An Alien Visitor

"I would nominate the state education system whose “the workers” are always on television telling us how miserable their lives are."

This is the sort of garbage that the News of the World would defecate out now and again.

"However, it is the right (and New Labour) which wants to empower these “the workers” and break up the bureaucracy."

That is funny because schools are poaching those so called bureaucrats at an alarming rate!

"the right that wants to allow “the workers” who are parents more choice"

Everyone has a choice but some have more choices than others, and some have only one choice! So much for that vision! But what are these choices you speak of? The choice for your kid to have a really good education or a really shit one?! Erm, let me think about that for a minute!


Jowell's handshake example is really appalling. At best she's saying there's insufficient upward social mobility into the top 10% - and blaming it on the 90%, for being too thick and graceless to pass the tests which were introduced by the current occupants to keep them out.


In true Animal Farm style, what started out as evasion of tax by the rich has turned into an assault on ordinary people buying services in cash.


... and the left should forget about fairness. It's a trap. The left's job is top represent working class interests.


The Fleet Street Fox, beat you to this issue. (via Guido Fawkes)


"The problem is that you're so stupid when someone told you hedge funds were a major problem you launched an attack on gardeners."

You really can't help some people!

The Crooked Timber is at the top, and the corruption and bias is systemic.

gastro george

"I had to look up what recrudescence meant."

My initial thought was that it related to Jon Cruddas.

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