It was never a surprise that the shaky marriage between New Labour and big business would end up on the rocks. After Ten-Gallon-hat Blair skipped off into the sunset to multi-millionairedom it was only a matter of time before the cracks would start to show. And now they really are showing: we see a big business community back to its complaints about a Labour government treating them unfairly and overtaxing them.
The proposed 1% raise in National Insurance contributions for people earning above 20,000 is one of those measures that business would have to absorb themselves and which they can’t tax dodge, so it’s understandable why the ‘business leaders’ are making such a commotion about it. Clearly they would prefer any unavoidable taxes to be income taxes which employees would suffer themselves and which are so much more easily dodged further up the scale. Instead we’ve been treated to the rounds of how it will ‘destroy the economy’ and ‘halt the recovery’. We’ve been in similar territory before – the minimum wage was also shouted down and declared a ‘death knell’ for jobs, growth and all the rest of the fluff which disguises the truth that it harms profit, which at the top of the tree ends up untaxed in offshore accounts.
Due mainly to their own long-term mendacity the Labour government now finds itself in the position of being untrusted by the general public. Much of what they say is taken with a pinch of salt, so it’s of little use for the Prime Minister and the chancellor to shout down the Tory claims of “efficiency savings”, even if they are a vague nonentity, because people are just sceptical of the whole machine of government and are falling back on the tried and trusted idea that anyone who says he’s going to tax something must be an enemy of the people and the guy opposing it must be right. In true cyclical fashion the wheel is turning and the party that has been in power during a bad war, an economic catastrophe and the worst political sleaze for 15 years is being image-bashed by the party that occupied the very same position just 13 years ago, and who a whole generation of new voters and forgetful older voters may resurrect.
New Labour has been foolish and stupid. To believe that business would never give them that et tu Brute moment and scamper back to their natural political friends was naive.