Sunday, 26 April 2009

Chamber of Commerce mourns 'THE DEATH OF NEW LABOUR'

I found myself at a 'Budget Breakfast' hosted by Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. [Don't ask!]
Sitting in the up market Balmoral Hotel at 8am surrounded by 'Chamber men' I was 'treated' to two examinations of Alistair Darlings proposals.The first, delivered by a Mr David Collier of Tax Consultancy firm Chiene and Tait, addressed amongst other topics the increase in top rate tax for the rich. Clearly among friends David felt he could speak his mind. He was outraged at the plan to raise the taxes of those on salaries above £150,000 per annum from 45p to 50p.'Lots of people will be appalled at this move' said our tax Partner.
As I looked around the room I realized I was sitting among the 'people' he had in mind. Around me were gathered Edinburgh's accountants, lawyers,businessmen and sundry Executives all obviously about to pay more tax.'Are we witnessing the end of New Labour' asked Mr Collier mournfully to a sea of nodding heads.
How out of touch can these people get? I thought. In Scotland today some 850,000 workers live on or around the minimum wage of £7 per hour! Average wages are, according to the governments latest figures, £24,800 per annum. So my fellow diners were earning at least seven times as much and yet clearly resent paying 5p extra tax on their earnings above £150,000! The second of our 'seekers after the truth' was none other than Bill Jamieson, Executive Editor of The Scotsman, a man seldom off Newsnight Scotland when grave matters economics are scrutinised. Bill was not best pleased by the current economic situation. He was perplexed to say the least.'We are moving from one era to another' he warned in an ominous tone, reminding me strangely of Trotsky of all people. Repeating himself in case anyone failed to notice it the first time he stressed 'The world has moved from one epoch to another'. Trotsky was fond of his 'epochs' too. Our 'Scotsman' told how he could barely watch the Budget statement as he was still in a state of shock from a year which had seen a revolution in Edinburgh's financial world. 'Who could have predicted last April' asked Bill genuinely perplexed 'that we would meet a year later with the Bank of Scotland gone altogether and RBS nationalized? How on earth did we get to this position? 'The Scotsman's font of all wisdom was plainly at a loss to explain the enormity and the rapidity of the collapse. But there was more than ignorance in Bills delivery there was fear too. 'The £750bn New Labour has borrowed ''scares the life out of me'' he confessed, as well he might. No one he knew had any confidence in Labours' ability to pay it back, nor, he told us, in the likelihood other capitalists would extend the credit.
Alistair Darlings forecasts for future economic growth were laughable he warned. And his audience agreed. This seemed to set him onto a favourite Chamber of Commerce theme 'the bloated public sector and the unprotected plucky 'enterprise' sector.' Now in familiar territory, he insisted there had to be severe cuts in the public sector with its final salary pension schemes, job security and 0.7% guaranteed income growth if the country was to rise from the ashes again. These demands had his audience in raptures. Despite the obvious allegiance of those gathered I couldn't resist the chance to put a [rhetorical] question to Bill during the Q. and A.'s. 'Why' I asked 'is UK national borrowing at the level it is, if it isn't to bail out the banks and 'detox' the debts they have left us? Isn't it true that we are borrowing £750bn not to bail out the public sector but rather to clear up the mess left by the so called 'golden goose', his precious 'enterprise sector'? 'Good question' replied Bill perplexed and reverting to earlier type.....

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