Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: Is it time for a tax hike?

What the papers say: Is it time for a tax hike?
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The 48 per cent have spoken - and they want higher taxes, according to the British Social Attitudes survey. In the wake of a general election in which Labour won support based on a manifesto of free spending, is it time for a rethink on tax? And should we wave goodbye to the era of austerity? Here’s what today’s newspapers make of the case for a tax hike:

We are ‘at a fiscal crossroads’, says the Daily Telegraph. During their dismal election campaign, the Tories 'failed to make the case for living within our means’ and the ‘public appetite for prudence’ appears to be waning. Yet for all the cheer from the left of the “huge support for higher taxes and spending” - the survey on which these reports were based shows that less than half of people are in favour of more spending and tax. Undoubtedly though, ‘the political winds are blowing in favour of even more spending’, claims the Telegraph, with Sir Oliver Letwin among the Tories saying it could be time to increase taxes. ‘There is an alternative’, says the Telegraph, which calls on the government to tax less and reap the rewards of higher economic growth instead. ‘This is supposed to be the Tory approach’, the paper says, but it seems that many Conservatives have ‘given up making the arguments’. The likes of Sir Oliver might think they’re taking the fight to Labour. They’re not - and those Conservatives talking about hiking taxes ‘are simply playing Labour’s game'. In this situation, 'there is only one winner. Jeremy Corbyn’.

Some members of the cabinet think Labour’s ‘relative success’ ‘means they have to do something about public pay’, says the Times. Yet while the Tories would be wrong to ‘mimic Jeremy Corbyn’, Theresa May ‘cannot ignore the resonance of his message’. In the wake of the £1.5bn deal with the DUP, the PM will ‘come up against the same awkward question every time she repeats the case for austerity. If there is no magic money tree, how can she pick £1 billion of its fruits to give to Northern Ireland?’ The case for a ‘fiscal rethink’ isn’t just political, though; public services are starting to struggle, points out the Times, which says hospital waiting times are up, ‘violence in prisons have soared’ and ‘schools are ‘feeling the pinch’. It’s not always right to simply call for more spending, and Jeremy Corbyn was undoubtedly playing politics when he talked up the damage caused by cuts to police and fire services in recent weeks. ‘But in a some areas, the state is failing,’ the Times argues.

’Nearly half of us want more public spending, funded by higher taxes’, says the Sun. ‘By coincidence,’ the paper says, ‘nearly half of us pay no income tax’. The Sun calls into question the motives of those who want a tax hike, saying that if ‘tax fans’ are ‘willing it on others’ it would ‘explain the lure of a Labour manifesto of freebies funded by someone else’. Admittedly, the paper says, ‘many would stump up extra for the NHS and schools. Yet given that ‘meaningful’ levels of tax being raised would mean ‘a tax rise across the board’, we must be careful, points out the Sun. After all, ‘solely hammering businesses and the rich…will raise far too little and destroy lower-paid jobs.’