Last week was Labour’s best of the campaign so far and the Tories’ worst. The row over tax avoidance and Lord Fink’s comments reinforced the damaging perception that the Tories are the party of the rich. It also raised Labour morale, frontbenchers who used to be pessimistic about the party’s electoral prospects are now bullish.
But there is a danger that this tactical victory could turn into a strategic defeat. For Miliband by denouncing tax avoidance—which is legal—and setting himself up as a moral arbiter on the issue, has made his tax affairs and those of his shadow Cabinet, MPs and donors a legitimate subject of public interest. They no longer just have to be legal and fully declared, they also have to pass the higher Miliband bar. Already, this weekend several Labour donors find themselves in the tax spotlight.
If the next few weeks come to be dominated by discussions of the morality or otherwise of the tax arrangements of Labour figures this could turn into ‘back to basics’ for tax affairs and end up doing more harm than good to Labour. But as it stands, Labour morale is far higher today than it was a week ago.