Bill Carmichael: Ed just can’t handle taxing questions

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ANOTHER week, another relaunch for beleaguered Labour leader Ed Miliband.

His advisers persist in the belief that if the British public got to know weird Ed a little better they would learn to love him more.

In fact the reverse is true – the more people learn about Miliband, the further his personal poll numbers plummet.

But this time it was supposed to be different. Miliband had reshuffled his Shadow Cabinet and with a reinvigorated team full of fresh ideas Labour was supposed to finally make the all important breakthrough.

The plan lasted less than a week before falling apart as a result of a car crash appearance by Miliband on the ITV politics show, The Agenda.

Pop singer Myleene Klass – yes, a pop star rather than a political heavyweight – tore Miliband off a strip over his plans for a mansion tax telling him “you can’t just point at things and tax them… you need to have a better strategy”.

Poor old Ed looked like he’d swallowed a gobstopper. I couldn’t help thinking that if Miliband can’t get the better of a pop star in a political argument, what chance would he have in tough negotiations with Vladimir Putin over Ukraine or getting a better deal for Britain from the bureaucratic bruisers in the EU?

The big idea in the latest relaunch is that Miliband will lead Labour’s fight against “zero-zero” Britain. The catchy phrase refers to those at the bottom of the pile on zero hours contracts, while those at the top pay zero tax.

I’m sure this sounded great when the party’s pointy heads were brainstorming ideas, but the big problem is that it is nonsense on stilts.

No rich people in Britain can pay zero tax – not legally anyway. The only people who don’t pay any income tax are the poor, including 275,000 people who have been exempted thanks to the coalition Government’s decision to raise thresholds.

The simple fact is that rich people pay income tax that is way out of proportion to their share of national earnings, and without their vital contribution our public services would undoubtedly collapse.

After all, the top one per cent of earners – those pulling in £160,000 or more a year – pay 29 per cent of all income tax. This is far higher than the figures under the last Labour government, despite all the bleating about “tax cuts for millionaires”.

So let us be clear – despite (or perhaps because of) the current Government cutting the top rate of tax, the proportion of income tax paid by the richest has actually gone up.

Perhaps some of those rich people in the UK paying lots of tax, and thereby helping to fund our schools and hospitals, are refugees from France, where Francois Hollande’s socialist government tried to impose swingeing taxes on the wealthy – a policy Miliband wants to emulate.

The result has been an exodus of the brightest and best that has left France teetering on the brink of economic collapse and facing years of stagnation.

“Tax the rich!” may make for a populist slogan, but it is economically illiterate.

Of course the rich should pay their fair share, but we should careful not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Warsi is no loss

Yorkshire’s Baroness Warsi waded into the debate after four Jewish worshippers and a police officer were murdered in cold blood by Islamist terrorists at a Jerusalem synagogue this week.

But instead of denouncing the barbarous attack, Warsi attempted to draw a parallel with recent protests by some Jewish groups who want the right to pray on the Temple Mount, where they are currently banned by those oh-so- tolerant Muslims. So asking for the right to pray on the site of an ancient Jewish temple is, according to Warsi, exactly the same as indiscriminately slaughtering innocent people.

Warsi was raised to the peerage and given a government job as a consolation prize by the Conservatives after she was decisively rejected by the voters of her native Dewsbury in 2005.

But she quit her government post in the summer in protest government policy on the Gaza dispute. It is fair to say she is not exactly a great loss.

Her latest disgusting act of moral equivalence makes one glad that she no longer in a position of power where she can do damage.