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An inheritance tax cut would backfire on the Tories

Just when you thought that the Tories were getting into a position where they might be capable of winning the formerly Labour-leaning seats in the Midlands and the North – which they will need to snatch in order to survive after next election – along comes a minister to chuck a spanner in the electoral works.  Housing minister Robert Jenrick has suggested that the government might be minded to cut or even abolish inheritance tax, complaining about its ‘fundamental unfairness’ and claiming that it amounted to ‘paying tax twice’. Disturbingly, Sajid Javid also made a hint about cutting inheritance tax at Tory conference, suggesting that it might be emerging party

Is the OBR right about a no-deal Brexit recession?

Sajid Javid. Liz Truss. Dominic Raab, or perhaps even his old City Hall colleague Kit Malthouse. There are plenty of well-qualified candidates to move into the house next door when Boris Johnson becomes prime minister next week. But one thing is surely now certain. The incumbent will have to be removed. In the dying days of a dismal Chancellorship, Philip Hammond seems intent on doing nothing more than stoking the dying embers of Project Fear. At a moment when the country needs a Chancellor working out how to cope with a potentially major economic shock, it is stuck with one paralysed by an irrational fear of what might be around

Is ‘because of Brexit’ the new ‘despite Brexit’?

Unemployment is at record lows. Wages are rising at the fastest rate in a decade. The gender gap is evaporating, creating a more equal society. Which country is that? France, perhaps, as it benefits from president Macron’s reforms? Or Germany, as it reaps all the benefits of the Single Market and the single currency? Well, not quite. In fact, it is Britain. Despite Brexit, to use the obligatory two words that now have to be firmly placed in front of any positive news about the economy, the UK continues to evolve into one of the best places in the world to be an employee right now. And although most of

Ross Clark

A weak pound is nothing to fear

Ed Conway, Sky News’s economics editor, tweets this morning that sterling has notched up a dubious record – it stands out as the worst-performer of all major currencies over the past 24 hours, month, three months and 12 months. But does that matter? Yes, if you are about to go on a foreign holiday. Take a longer view, however, and you might conclude that a weak pound might be rather a good thing. The most obvious point about a sinking currency is that it makes the country’s exports cheaper in global markets and makes imports more expensive. It thus helps to boost production while simultaneously helping to switch consumers towards

Meet the car boss who has finally realised the truth about no deal

Most of us probably decided Aston Martin was by far the coolest car company in the world the first time we saw Honour Blackman climb into James Bond’s DB5 in Goldfinger. But just in case there were still any doubters out there, there is now another reason to love them as well. Amidst the constant predictions of disaster from the auto industry that would follow from leaving the European Union without a deal, the company’s chief executive has pointed out an obvious fact: that at this stage, it would be better to simply leave than prolong the agony of our departure any further.  The auto industry has been one of

Why governments should spend big on tech | 6 July 2019

I was talking to a large Silicon Valley video-conferencing firm the other day. ‘Just for interest,’ I asked, ‘what would it cost to provide your service to 65 million people?’ The reason I asked is simple. I don’t understand why it is fine for government to spend £60 billion on a railway or £20 billion on an airport, but not, say, £300 million a year providing the whole country with first-rate video-calling technology. The argument for the UK seems especially compelling. An English-speaking country situated on the Greenwich meridian is likely to gain disproportionate business advantage from the widespread adoption of video–conferencing. If we were to negotiate a collective price

Jeremy Hunt’s foolish no-deal promise

As Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly claimed during the Conservative leadership campaign, to set a deadline of 31 October for leaving the EU is foolish. Why tie yourself to that date if a deal with EU negotiators seemed close to being sealed? But if you have fallen for that argument, it seems no less puzzling why you would want to set a deadline of 30 September instead – as Hunt has done this morning. That is the date, he has announced, that he will decide whether a deal is achievable or not. If it is, he is prepared to carry on negotiating with the EU indefinitely. If it isn’t, then he

Why the next Tory leader should listen to Philip Hammond

Philip Hammond is up to one last trick before bowing out – and it’s a good one. The Chancellor has called on each of the Tory leadership candidates to commit to ensuring Britain’s debt falls as a share of national income every year. Hammond reportedly asked in a letter to leadership candidates: ‘If we do not commit to getting our debt down after a nine-year run of uninterrupted economic growth, how can we demonstrate a dividing line between the fiscal responsibility of our party and the reckless promises of John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn?’ Playing Labour-lite – promising just a little less spending than socialists Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell

Boris-onomics is what Britain needs

A few jokes. A sprinkling of tax cuts. A few more jokes. A couple of flashy new buildings. And then back to the jokes. As Boris Johnson launches his pitch for the premiership – and takes a commanding lead among Tory MPs – it would be easy to dismiss his economic programme, along with the rest of his plans, as flimsy self-promotion, with about as much substance as one of his columns. After all, he is leaning heavily on his record as London mayor to prove his credentials and most of his critics will dismiss that as irrelevant. But hold on. In fact, Johnson’s record as mayor was exceptionally good. And his time

Tax cuts are welcome, but Boris’s proposal is not the best

The source of government revenue is a mystery for many people, but one thing voters do remember is that they are taxed. When people open up their pay slips, the income tax deduction stares them in the face. The sight of it is galling, and the higher the percentage taken, the worse it is. This is true even if there is a sense that, like a foul-tasting medicine, it is a necessity. So this aversion to tax explains why Boris Johnson’s pledge to raise the level at which the higher rate tax band of 40 per cent kicks in – from £50,000 to £80,000 of earnings – is electorally attractive. This remains

Michael Gove’s plan to scrap VAT is a big mistake

When I read about Michael Gove’s plans to abolish VAT and replace it with a US-style Sales Tax, I thought: “Is he on drugs?” Gove’s views on experts have often been misrepresented. His infamous attack was aimed at a subset who haven’t been held accountable for failed predictions, not on the very idea of expertise. In fact, his scepticism of over-confident forecasts was influenced by the research of Prof Philip Tetlock, an expert on forecasting. Yet, while he isn’t the post-truth, anti-expert that his opponents paint him as, he happens to be promoting a policy opposed near-universally by tax experts. It is not often the head of Tax Justice UK and the former executive

Ross Clark

A legacy Theresa May can be proud of

Theresa May is said to be desperately searching for a legacy in her last few weeks at Number 10. It is staring her in the face. Today, the Office for National Statistics published its latest employment figures which confirm, against all odds, that we are in the midst of a jobs miracle of which any previous prime minister would have been proud. The employment rate climbed again to 76.1 per cent, the equal highest on record. The unemployment rate fell to 3.8 per cent, the lowest rate since the autumn of 1974. The rate for economic inactivity – which takes into account people who are not working but not looking

Why didn’t the experts warn us about the Remain Recession?

The economy would tank. Trade would collapse. Unemployment would soar, and house prices would sink. In the run-up to the referendum, and in the three years of tortured negotiations about leaving since then, we heard lots of dire warnings about what would happen to the economy if we left the EU. And yet we heard very little from the same experts – the Bank of England, the CBI and so on – about what would happen if we didn’t leave at the end of March. And yet it turns out that the British economy has contracted sharply, not because we left the EU, but because we didn’t leave. We are

Jeremy Hunt shows some ankle with defence budget pitch

With Theresa May’s departure expected later this year, the race is underway among her Tory colleagues to position themselves as her likely successor. The weekend papers were filled with ministers at pains to prove their credentials – with Liz Truss calling for one million homes to be built on the green belt and Matt Hancock and Amber Rudd sparking rumours of a double ticket after they penned an article calling for a ‘modern, compassionate Conservative party’. On Monday evening Jeremy Hunt appeared to show some ankle of his own with a speech to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. Discussing Britain’s place in the world, the Foreign Secretary said the UK is held

Listen: Mike Gapes caught out over Change UK funding

With less than a month to go until the European elections, and with Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party surging in the polls, pressure is continuing to build on Change UK – The Independent Group, whose performance has been far less impressive than its rival. Seeking to change that, was Change UK MP Mike Gapes, who went on Iain Dale’s LBC radio show to sell his party to the public. The former Labour MP started off strongly, by attacking the source of the Brexit Party’s funds, saying: ‘Well it’ll be interesting to see the huge amounts of funding Nigel Farage has had from various dubious sources.’  Unfortunately, it was quickly pointed

Would a customs union pass the Commons?

It’s crunch day for the Labour/Tory Brexit talks. After a weekend of government leaks and briefings, both sides will today meet to see if a deal can be agreed. It’s clear that Theresa May is keen to make an agreement with Jeremy Corbyn in order to pass some form of Brexit. The hope in Downing Street is that the disappointing local election results for both main parties will be enough to prompt the Labour leader to cut a deal. As for what that compromise will consist of, the government is willing to move on the customs arrangement – committing the UK to something very similar to a customs union (most

Would adding a customs union to the Brexit deal really be so bad?

It has been nearly a month since cross-party talks between the government and Labour began, and there is still no sign of white smoke. If the two sides do reach a deal, it is likely to involve movement from the government towards Labour’s key demand – negotiating a ‘permanent’ customs union with the EU after Brexit. Both the Telegraph and the Mail report this morning that the Prime Minister is inching towards a customs union, which she increasingly sees as the only way to get a version of her deal through parliament. There has already been a pre-emptive backlash against the idea. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that ‘there

Britain will regret doing business with Huawei

Imagine the following medieval conversation: King: “We need to build a castle at Dover. ‘Tis the key to England.” Courtier: “Sire, the French build excellent castles at fantastic prices. Of course, we should not allow them anywhere near the keep, but no harm if they construct the moat and curtain walls.” Returning to the 21st century, 5G might be said to be the ‘key to England’. Many times faster than 4G, the network will be the technological foundation of our society for the next few decades. It will carry many of our communications, enable the operation of systems, including driverless cars, and be indispensable to our military and our security. Today

What did Japan make of Jeremy Hunt’s Brexit mission? 

Attempting to explain Brexit in 90 seconds might remind you of a Monty Python sketch, but this is what Jeremy Hunt attempted in front of a class of Japanese high school students on Monday. The foreign secretary gave a carefully worded summary of the Brexit situation using the graded language of the English language teacher he used to be. It’s not clear whether the students were any the wiser after he spoke, but the real aim of the lesson was achieved: to generate positive headlines for the Foreign Secretary on his latest visit to Japan. Hunt has some advantages. He lived in Japan in his early 20s, mastered the language and

Shamima Begum has a right to legal aid

Speaking on the radio this morning, the Foreign Secretary refused the temptation to condemn the Legal Aid Authority’s grant of legal aid to Shamima Begum. He was right to do so. We give legal aid to those accused of murder and genocide. This is not because we have sympathy with murderers and genocidal killers but because it is overwhelmingly in the public interest that criminal trials are fair, and that people are punished only when their guilt has been fairly established in accordance with the law. Once a crime passes a certain level of seriousness, legal aid for those without the means to pay is automatic. It would be absurd