The Labour Left has a lot to enjoy at the moment. All the talk - across the globe - is of more regulation and state control. But nothing will give them more pleasure than the return of higher taxation on the wealthiest Britons.
It was one one of the few real accomplishments of New Labour that they appeared to understand that heavy taxation of the wealth was counterproductive, leading to a brain drain of talent and a killing of incentives. That belief died today. Old Labour is back and with it an attempt to reignite the politics of envy. Paul Goodman MP recently reminded us where envy takes us: "In the medium to long term, envy means lower profits, less wealth, fewer jobs, less money for public services."
A higher tax on the wealth isn't going to raise much extra revenue. That's not its point. It's all about political positioning: cuddling up to the LibDems in the hope of a future coalition deal and of wrongfooting the Conservatives. It's also dishonest; Brown and Darling are hoping that voters will believe that only the rich will be hit by today's boomerang budget, when in reality we'll all be hurt by Labour's tax bombshell. Tick, tock, tick tock.
Britain doesn't need more tax; it needs a leaner, reformed public sector. In a superb piece on today's Platform, Susie Squire discusses The TaxPayers' Alliance's latest Public Sector Rich List. She shows how the rich are getting richer in the public sector and she notes a complete breakdown in the relationship between reward and performance. Read her piece here.