Monday, 6 February 2012

Compassionate conservatism starts at home

Lying in bed this morning, I was contemplating the intellectual vacuum that is Paul Uppal MP (a stranger to the art of the apostrophe), as is my wont.

In particular, I was thinking about the government's swingeing attack on the welfare system. Amongst other evils, it plans to limit the maximum amount available to a family on benefits to £26,000, the average wage. It's a Victorian morality exercise: rather than provide according to need, the government's decided that the feckless should be punished.

There are a number of problems with this: those living in expensive cities need more; why should, for example, the children be made to suffer for the 'sins' of the parents; given that the majority of benefits are claimed by those in work, how have we ended up with a system in which the taxpayer subsidises a low-wage economy?; with 2.5m unemployed in the biggest economic slump since the 1930s, where's the evidence that the jobless are simply lazy bastards?

But I digress. Paul Uppal, as a slavishly loyal and intellectually-deficient backbench Tory MP voted for the benefit cuts. He genuinely believes - in so far as he believes in anything other than his own greatness - that benefits lead to dependence and fecklessness.

But only for the poor.

What do I mean? Well, I recall a speech he recently made in parliament which called for the abolition of local property taxes on empty commercial property:
I have found that empty property rates often make individuals who own commercial or industrial property view that property as a problem. Consequently, they will sometimes consider measures to try to mitigate the empty property rate tax. So the tax actually changes the mindset of property owners; it changes how they view the property. They do not view it as an opportunity but as a millstone around their necks.
So what he's calling for is less taxpayers' money for the disabled, the poor and the young, and more taxpayers' money for rich property owners (he is, of course, a commercial property owner). The poor require the big stick to make them work: the rich require bribes. The poor should accept less because labour is noble in itself: the rich should not be forced to drop the rents to fill their property.

The sheer ideological poverty of Uppal's mental landscape is summarised in this article he posted:
To borrow a phrase from Reagan in the end it is free enterprise, not government regulation, not high taxes nor big government spending, but free enterprise, which will lead to the creation of a better Britain.
The free market put children up chimneys. It gave India to the East India Company as a private hell. It promoted slavery. It resisted the Clean Air Act and poisoned our rivers, it fought the Minimum Wage and the NHS. The free market called for the abolition of banking regulation - and we all know how that worked out, don't we?

Is there any place in which 'high taxes' and 'big government spending' works? Er… how about Norway - the richest country in the world. It taxes business and individuals heavily, and it's a paradise. The gap between the rich and the poor is minuscule compared with the situation here, in which Bob Diamond takes home £40m per year with virtually no taxation, while his cleaner depends on benefits to make a living wage.

Uppal's been reading too many Republican speeches - and he's wrong. Reagan talked about the free market, but the American economy during his time was underpinned by government military spending - welfare for businesses. That's something he's learned from them: demanding tax reductions for private property is not exactly 'the free market': it's using government to support capitalism by directing taxes into the pockets of supposed free-marketeers.

Right, I'm angry now, and I've got to read Poly-Olbion for this afternoon, so you can all run along to the Leveson inquiry. It's Paul Dacre, the Daily Mail editor today, so it should be fun.

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