Time to break some taboos

A new centrist party could breathe some fresh air into stale debates – and give the economy a boost too.

935-CV2

Can the Labour splitters do a Macron?

The new breakaway centrist grouping launched on Monday by a group of seven moderate, pro-EU Labour MPs calling itself The Independent Group probably doesn't have a huge chance of success. Not much brand recognition, a tired backward-looking message, not many customers and no real way of distributing the product to the customers. If it was a product launch at Unilever or Nestl, no one would be feeling terribly optimistic about its prospects.

But even if it doesn't ever amount to very much in terms of votes or power, it could still perform a useful function.

The Ukip of the centre

Here are three policy ideas to start with.

1. Phase out tax credits

When that was combined with free movement of labour, allowing unlimited migration from a relatively poor eastern Europe, the UK turned into a machine for generating millions and millions of low-paid, low-productivity jobs. That was good for the jobs statistics, but it didn't do much for overall living standards. The credits should gradually be phased out and the UK should concentrate instead on creating higher-paid, higher-productivity jobs.

2. Reintroduce regional tax rates

All the evidence from the rest of the world tells us that the only policy that will really make a difference to this is tax. In the US, for example, there are meaningful differences between income and personal taxes from state to state. And guess what? Lots of jobs and people have moved to the lower-tax states. Sure, New York andLos Angeles remain dominant for many other reasons, but wealth is spread around.

If Wales and the northeast, for example, had significantly lower income and corporation tax rates, lots of firms would suddenly want to move there. That would be healthy for the economy as a whole.

3. Rip up all tariffs

As we leave the EU, the UK will be free to set its own tariffs. How about at zero? On everything. Tariffs are a form of tax on consumers, and a way of shielding inefficient industries from competition, and that doesn't make sense in the medium term. Amid all the threats of trade wars, the world could use a beacon of free trade.

British politics has lots of taboo subjects that are deemed too difficult to discuss. The health service, for example, the complexity of our tax system, the slightly odd way national insurance has turned into a tax that doesn't insure you against anything, the need to raise the retirement age massively to cope with ageing populations. A genuinely radical new party could break a few of those taboos and open up the conversation to new ideas. Someone else might end up implementing them but at least they would finally be on the agenda.

Recommended

Greensill, Cameron and the return of Tory sleaze
UK Economy

Greensill, Cameron and the return of Tory sleaze

The collapse of Greensill Capital threw a spotlight on political lobbying when it emerged that former PM David Cameron had been fighting its corner. J…
17 Apr 2021
Recovery Loan Scheme: the latest government aid package for small businesses
Small business

Recovery Loan Scheme: the latest government aid package for small businesses

The Recovery Loan Scheme will help companies weather the pandemic
16 Apr 2021
UK mid-cap stocks look forward to life after lockdown
UK stockmarkets

UK mid-cap stocks look forward to life after lockdown

The FTSE 250 hit an all-time high at the end of last week, as investors look to a post-lockdown recovery.
16 Apr 2021
House prices: from boom to even bigger boom
House prices

House prices: from boom to even bigger boom

UK house prices have risen to new to record highs, says Nicole Garcia Merida. Demand continues to outpace supply, but continued low interest rates, th…
9 Apr 2021

Most Popular

The bitcoin bubble will burst: here’s how to play it
Bitcoin

The bitcoin bubble will burst: here’s how to play it

The cryptocurrency’s price has soared far beyond its fundamentals, says Matthew Partridge. Here, he looks at how to short bitcoin.
12 Apr 2021
What does the Coinbase listing mean for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?
Bitcoin

What does the Coinbase listing mean for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?

As the bitcoin price hit new highs, the world's biggest cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase, listed on the stockmarket. John Stepek looks at what that m…
15 Apr 2021
Properties for sale for around £400,000
Houses for sale

Properties for sale for around £400,000

From a converted church in Banffshire with views towards the Cairngorms National Park, to a period property in the Georgian market town of Beverley, e…
2 Apr 2021