Is there life on Planet Clegg? Yes, but it cannot add up
Published: 18:28 BST, 29 August 2012 | Updated: 21:51 BST, 29 August 2012
What planet is he on? Nick Clegg has come up with another load of debt-reduction moonshine
Nasa is currently enthralling the world by beaming back pictures from Mars taken by its rover Curiosity. It’s a pity they didn’t send their robot to visit Planet Clegg.
And, like Mars, Planet Clegg is a pretty strange place.
The so-called Deputy Prime Minister has today come out with another bucket of moonshine. Only a few months after signing off a cut in top rate income tax, he now wants to dream up a new wealth tax, intended to get the rich to cough up a few more billions towards wiping out our mountainous debts.
Mr Clegg does not seem to be paying attention. If he did, he would notice that according to a report from the respected think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies, our chances of wiping out the deficit (the annual gap between income and expenditure) let alone shrinking the accumulated national debt mountain are about as likely as Curiosity stumbling across the Essex lion.
According to the CPS, the Government’s “austerity programme” is a figment of its imagination.
In cash terms, spending has risen from £602 billion in Gordon Brown’s last year of 2009/10 to £647 billion this year. As a percentage of national output, spending is down by just 0.2 per cent, as opposed to the 3.4 per cent promised by Chancellor George Osborne over 2010-2015.
Put another way, the Government has made only 6 per cent of its planned cuts in current expenditure so far – which is not surprising given that the big ticket items like welfare, education and health are largely protected and that overseas aid is rising fast.
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Insofar as the deficit has been reduced (by far less than promised) this is largely down to tax rises and cuts in capital spending. Osborne said that the deficit would be eliminated across the Parliament by a combination of 80 per cent spending cuts and 20 per cent tax rises. Reality is nothing like that.
As for the accumulated national debt, this is on track to increase by £605 billion from 2010 to 2015 or from 53 per cent of GDP to 76 per cent.
Little green man Clegg seems dimly aware that the Coalition’s arithmetic is on a par with that of the average eight-year-old.
But instead of sticking to the Government’s promises to wipe out the structural deficit by 2015 (now postponed to 2017), Clegg has come up with a whacky new idea, which would only have the effect of impoverishing the country still further.
A wealth tax (on top of the effective current top rate of income tax of 62 per cent) would presumably be levied on assets such as property, shares, capital gains, profits and pensions. It would be spectacularly unfair, since it would penalise thrift, and spectacularly self-defeating since it would drive job-creating businessmen and entrepreneurs abroad to far more favourable tax environments.
Of course, it won’t happen. The Tory party (even Dave) would sooner jump off a cliff than sign up to this nonsense.
Clegg’s ravings are directed at his equally other-world party activists and are calculated to get him through an uncomfortable conference week towards the end of next month. Earthlings should not take them seriously.
He could, of course, ring up George Osborne and tell him to keep his word to electors and cut spending as promised. But that kind of simple logic is unknown on Planet Clegg.