"What is the difference between Gordon Brown and Robert Maxwell? Maxwell at least intended to give the stolen pension money back."
That comment was made by one of the Members of the ConservativeHome Panel. I think it was Peter Lilley who awarded Gordon Brown with the 'Robert Maxwell Memorial Prize' for his £5bn a year raid on Britain's private pensions. "Pensions" was the word that recurred more than any other in the responses from the Panel: "Browns biggest mistake has been on Pensions - a point we must highlight again and again."
The Chancellor's tax on pensions provision is only one of 66 extra tax rises imposed by Britain's Red Chancellor. This pdf shows how UK tax levels are rising faster than our competitors and the overall tax levels are exceeding those of Germany. Gordon Brown is steadily undoing the supply-side benefits of the Thatcher years. There is also the problem of an increasingly complex system. According to the World Economic Forum the UK is 67th in the world for tax simplicity. We share that dubious honour with the African nation of Benin!
After pensions, council tax rises produced the most anger: "Council tax is the biggest single financial issue giving concerns to residents. It is over 10% of my pension income." Another Panellist said: "We pay more & more tax for less & less benefit - 2006/2007 council tax bills will be the next demonstration of this."
The regressive impact of Brown's stealthy taxes also angered Panel members. One member urged Tory strategists to "target the issue of the poor paying a higher proportion of their income in tax than the rich and show how the Tories would correct this imbalance - it could show tax cutting but as a means to benefit the poor not the rich." The 'Wake up to Gordon Brown' series will look at Gordon Brown's social justice record tomorrow.
Inheritance tax was another bugbear of Panellists: "Inheritance Tax Inheritance Tax....come on get a grip.... these are are easy votes... lets us have wealth cascading down the generations..... or is that no longer Tory policy."
I finish this entry with two practical recommendations from Panel members - they are well worth CCHQ adopting:
"An on-line tax calculator where people fill in their details and we calculate just how much their taxes have risen since 1997. Then ask them to rate various services and how they have changed since 97 - much better/ a little better/ no real change/ a little worse much worse. The website would then reveal how much more had been spent on that service and provide some choice details. eg You believe the NHS is about the same standard as it was in 1997. Under Labour spending of your tax money on the NHS has increased by 67%. For the first time ever, the number of administrators now exceeds the number of hospital beds. The number of operations cancelled has increased by...."
"No-one truly comprehends what billions look like, but they understand that they could have had another holiday or a new computer for their children etc. It really has to be explained to people in basic pounds, shillings and pence(!) how much poorer they are today as individual pensioners because of Gordon's raid on pension funds and how much a person in their 50's today will be disadvantaged in 10/15 years time."
PREVIOUS ENTRY IN THIS SERIES: GORDON BROWN'S RECORD ON ECONOMIC COMPETITIVENESS.