David Blackburn

Dave, if you want Tracey to paint you, you’ll have to ditch the 50% tax rate

Dave, if you want Tracey to paint you, you’ll have to ditch the 50% tax rate
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At the end of Fraser’s interview with Cameron in this week's magazine, Dave confided that he would most like to be painted by the Maid of Margate, Tracey Emin. Cameron has been courting celebrity and popular culture, exactly as New Labour tried to align itself with ‘Cool Britannia’. Usually, the pursuit of photo-ops with celebs counts for nothing beyond the memory of the photograph, but yesterday Emin entered a contentious political debate. She said: “I’m very seriously considering leaving Britain; I’m simply not willing to pat tax at 50%.”

For three months, the Spectator has been lodging Freedom of Information requests to view the working for the estimate that the 50% rate would increase yield by £1.13bn. So far no joy from either the Treasury or HMRC – a fact that increases the sense that the rise will yield less, and that it is merely a cunning piece of sensational politics designed to trap Cameron. As it turns out, this is the only piece of successful strategy the Brown premiership has pulled-off.

There’s no doubt that the policy is popular, spawning crazed recitations of the Denis Healy songbook: “Screw the bankers!”, “Tax them until the pips the squeak!” etc, etc. Now, you may contend whether Emin’s latest show, which features a very self-regarding film of her masturbating, is ‘Good Art’, but art it is. Her intervention is a reminder that pernicious tax rates endanger more than the nation’s wealth; they threaten its cultural vitality. The 50% rate is nothing more than the cosmetic face the politics of envy. It is short-sighted, cynical and counter-productive. Cameron should ditch his pledge to match it.