Sunday, 6 December 2009

The playing fields of Eton

Gordon Brown took a new line in PMQs on Wednesday, suggesting that Conservative inheritance tax policy had been formed 'on the playing fields of Eton', whilst also getting in a dig at a Conservative candidate from the Goldsmith family who is not domiciled for tax purposes.

The Conservative bench looked discomfited, while the Labour benches cheered wildly, giving Gordon a points victory. Dave Cameron has now hit back saying that the remarks were stupid and juvenile, which suggests that they did hit home.

The Conservative Party's website is surprisingly coy about the schools its front bench went to. The fact that shadow foreign secretary William Hague attended a state school is flagged up in the first line of his biography, but shadow chancellor George Osborne is simply listed as having gone to school 'in London'. In fact he went to fee paying St. Paul's.

The 'Tory toffs' line was used by Labour in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election when Labour activists dressed up in top hats in an effort to draw attention to the wealth of the Conservative candidate. It didn't work then, but it may be more effective after a recession.

I don't like it very much because I would prefer a focus on policy choices, but in politics it is what works that matters. It seems like an attempt to shore up and mobilise the core Labour vote. Nothing wrong with that, provided it isn't at the expense of votes in marginal southern seats.

I hear there is talk of a one off windfall tax on bankers' bonuses after Alastair Darling's stand off with RBS. All good populist stuff, but a distraction from a far more important debate about effective financial regulation, especially at the global level.


Shankar said...

But can this swing the election, so late in the day?

And to what extent are Brown's barbs accurate that Tory iheritance tax plans are elitist?

Wyn Grant said...

I don't think it's an election winning strategy but it may be a loss minimisation strategy which would increase the chances of a hung Parliament - although the latest YouGov poll puts the Conservative lead steady at 13 per cent which suggests that the Populus poll was a rogue one.

Elitist is a 'boo' word. One has to balance a society that has become more unequal and arguably consequently more dysfunctional against complaints that not particularly well off estates were paying inheritance tax because house prices had gone up.

John said...

People in glass houses should not throw stones. I would far rather see an ex public school boy in government than an ex stalinist! See The roots of New Labour. What is wrong with our media, why don't they explain exactly what it meant to be an extreme left winger in the Cold War? These Labour ministers were evil by their own choice when they were younger, not sent there by their parents.