Monday, December 07, 2009

Gordon Brown: Class Warrior

British Prime Minister criticizes David Cameron over schooling

As the old saying tells us, only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. While controversial in separate, the two topics couldn't help but be doubly controversial in combination.

Likewise, class is a particularly controversial topic.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently stumbled upon a way to combine all three topics while commenting on British Conservative Party leader David Cameron's plans to reform the inheritance tax, which currently accounts for 0.8% of the British government's revenue.

Insisting that Cameron's plans to reform the tax would cost the treasury two billion pounds, Brown also took the opportunity to needle Cameron about where he and his advisor went to school.

"I have to say, that with you and Mr [Zach] Goldsmith your inheritance tax policy seems to have been dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton," Brown told the House of Commons.

Cameron, for his own part, is having none of it.

"My view is very simple," Cameron later explained. "What people are interested in is not where you come from but where you're going to, what you've got to offer, what you've got to offer the country."

"Now if Gordon Brown and Mandelson and the rest, if they want to fight a class war, fine, go for it," he continued. "It doesn't work."

Brown's comments may reflect frustrations with his current predicament. With his governing Labour Party continuing to trail the British Tories in the polls and the Prime Minister's influence within his own country waning, class tensions may be one of the few wedge issues Brown has to exploit.

"It's a petty, spiteful, stupid thing to do but if that's what they want to do, you know, go ahead," Cameron said.

"Frankly I think the country is more interested in who are these people, are they any good, have they got the right ideas, will they take the country forward, have they got the energy and vigour and dynamism that we so badly need?" he continued. "And the answer to those questions I believe is yes. But the best way to test it, you know what? Have an election."

At this particular point the election ball is entirely in Brown's court. He must call an election no later than June 3rd, 2010. When he does, he will dribble the ball out to face a veritable gauntlet.

Expectations are that Cameron will win a majority government, if not a dominant majority.

Brown's class-based ruminations certainly won't help.

None of this is to say that Cameron's plans for the inheritance tax couldn't stand to be improved. Cutting taxes on inheritances of less than one million pounds would leave more money in the hands of average Britons while not depriving the state of revenue from wealthy estates.

But even then, some of the provisions of the inheritance tax -- such as taxing any gifts the deceased made during the seven years years prior to their death -- are, frankly, draconian and ought to be done away with in no uncertain terms.

But Gordon Brown isn't doing himself any favours with these recent antics.

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