Latest Posts Subscribe to this blog RSS

Editor’s blog: The Wolf is right on CGT

In his support of the Chancellor Alistair Darling's controversial – some would say suicidal – moves on capital gains tax, Wolf's has been an almost lone howl in the wilderness. I fear in his contrarian analysis of Darling's CGT moves that he may well be talking a fair bit of sense, despite the fact that his scribblings have attracted squeaks of outrage – not least from his old editor Richard Lambert, now top banana at the CBI.

A bit of back-to-basics might not go amiss here. The simple facts are that if you earn shed loads of cash – and those who do have enjoyed a pretty nice run under New Labour since 1997 – then you should expect to pay your fair share of tax. (And I'm not talking about stupid Old Labour shenanigans like the 'politics of envy' 98% rates of the '60s and '70s.) If you're rich you won't get much back for your tax pains. You won't be using the government's second-rate schools, you take a helicopter rather than struggle on its pot-holed, heavily-congested roads and you definitely won't be relying on its meagre state pension when you hang up your boots. But coughing up is all part of the social contract and why you'd rather live here than in Paris or New York, or, god forbid, Frankfurt.

In many ways the wealthy only have themselves to blame for getting some heat. With stories floating around this summer about big cheeses in private equity paying less to the Exchequer than their cleaning ladies and all sorts of evil tales about fleet-footed Res Non Doms getting off scot free, it was clear there was trouble coming down the line. Even the Tories scent political gain in squeezing the wealthy at the moment.

It's also true that there won't be many entrepreneurs out there who don't bother taking any risks in business because now under the new regime they will only receive 82% of the gain from their businesses rather than 90%. The thing about the truly entrepreneurial is that they can't help forging forward and taking risk – it's the way they are made.

As the wise old Wolf noted: 'Arguments from relatively wealthy people that they ought to have their incomes taxed at far lower rates than everyone else, because of the benefits they shower upon us, should be treated with contempt.' So, cough up and quit whinging – it's not that bad, and ultimately you aren't going to be that much poorer. Don't you know there's a war to pay for?

Editor’s blog: Lies, damned lies and statistics

Years ago when I was a student I took a temporary holiday job at the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys – now part of the Office of National Statistics – and what a sorry place it was. Day in day out I was ticking boxes and checking endless questionnaires surrounded by incredibly bored and disaffected clerical officers, several of whom were hugely earnest, Little Red Book-brandishing Maoists from Middlesex University. What a waste of public money we were. I would hope that most of our efforts are now performed by machines.

The news that the number of British nationals in work has fallen in the past two years as 540,000 foreign workers have replaced them is pretty amazing stuff. Hilarious that the Conservatives find it 'profoundly disturbing'. Why? If Gordon Brown is really going to give 'a British job to every British worker' then he's going to have to reform our dysfunctional education system and work out a method of getting the hardcore unemployed back into work. These two tasks have stumped New Labour since 1997.

It seems to be incredibly un-PC to say it, but one of the conclusions that we can draw from the figures is surely that the indigenous population either cannot or will not fill the available job vacancies. But I cannot at this point launch into a tirade into the inadequacies of the UK workforce compared to their Polish counterparts. The bathroom I had done in my house recently was marked by incompetence on an epic scale – demonstrated by Brits, Poles and even someone who has previously been in the media and now masquerades as a plumber.