Equality and equity under Brown

[Wednesday]

A death at PMQs, a slight revival for a chameleon, some limelight for Alex Salmond, shyness from Alasdair Darling.

Gordon’s going Brown
Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s abysmal performance at his first PMQs today could indicate that his premiership will suffer death by a thousand cuts. Thus far, he has been unable to capitalise on the averted terror attacks to rush through more police state measures and has failed to look commanding on the issue of constitutional reform.

Why has Brown not taken the opportunity to introduce internment, which is seemingly backed by the “independent” terrorism adviser, Lord Carlisle? Could it be that Brown has a consensual leadership style, in contrast to his predecessor?

No, the answer is Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister and head of a de facto Scottish government, who has said that the attempted attack on Glasgow International Airport should not be used to introduce ninety-day detention.

Salmond has praised the bravery of those who forestalled the attacks and stressed the difference between the terrorists and the Scottish Muslim community, who completely disassociate themselves from acts of terrorism. This is in contrast to Brown’s continuation of the “war on terror” discourse and support for compulsory ID cards.

Britain 1, West Lothian 0
On the non-existent constitutional reform, designed to restore the trust lost under the Blair years – when he was writing the cheques – the leader of the Opposition, David “Dave the Chameleon” Cameron failed to push for a clear and radical solution to the West Lothian question…

And what is a clear and radical constitutional settlement? Well, if the Tories are looking for an adviser on this issue, I am available, if they want to associate themselves with Marxist bloggers. But I’ll give you a clue: an English parliament.

“English votes on English matters” is a lame solution. Can you imagine a demonstration for this? “What do we want? For English matters to be decided by Members of Parliament whose constituencies are located in England!” What a chant. “Devolution for England!” has more vigour, wouldn’t you say?

The Tories are a Unionist party, recall, and would be unlikely to heed this advice. Although word is that the Scottish Tories are warming to independence, I can’t see the Chameleon coming out for a proper constitutional settlement.

Back to Gordy, as John Osmond correctly observes:

Brown’s motivation in launching his constitutional debate is to shore up Britain as a nation [sic] rather than a place where the different nations of the British Isles come together to collaborate on matters of mutual interest. If it was the latter he would be committing to proportional representation for elections to the House of Commons, and transforming the House of Lords into a chamber whose essential function would be to represent the nations within a radically reconstructed confederal constitution.

Pay your tax Darling
The new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alasdair Darling, has told the Financial Times he will not bow to public pressure over the tax bill paid by private equity firms. He claims that making the pirates – sorry, private equity firms – pay more tax will have negative economic effects.

For a start, he could ensure that they start paying the tax they are supposed to: the BBC revealed that the private equity owners of Saga and the AA paid no corporation tax last year. Gee, who should have noticed this? Well, you will recall that the former Chancellor is now the PM.

This from the editorial in the News Line today:

The GMB is one of the trade unions that has said that MPs must stop borrowing for leverage buyouts being eligible for tax relief.

The GMB has also called for the withdrawing of the privilege of limited liability from capitalists profiting from leverage buyouts, and that they should personally be responsible for liabilities like the £2 billion in the 94 insolvent pensions schemes with links to private equity, and also when companies overloaded with debt go bust.

The GMB states that ‘The multi-millionaire elite plan to increase borrowings to £4.8 billion at SAGA/AA while they extract £2 billion of this debt to divide as ‘profits’ amongst themselves.

‘Of course the new organisation will pay no Corporation Tax for the foreseeable future as this debt has to be serviced. The scale of the debt will mean that for each of the 11,000 staff in SAGA/AA there are borrowings in excess of £400,000 per person and interest payments per head of £30,000 per year. This means that interest payments per person will be double the level of wages per person. This is not sustainable and if the company goes belly up under limited liability privileges those who have taken out the £2 billion are not liable for a penny.

‘In the same two year period in which the private equity owners of AA-SAGA – Permira, CVC and Charterhouse – paid no corporation taxes they generated profits for the group of £2.5 billion.’

This is almost four times their initial investment.

John Hutton, now business secretary, has also been talking to the Financial Times. He wants New Labour to be seen as the “natural party of business”. Like they’re not already…

It’s incredibly important for the British economy that private equity houses add value… and they’ve been doing that, been very successful.

Sure, John, sure. Tell it to the marines.

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