As a long-term supporter of the oldest and most radical form of wealth tax, the Henry George land tax (which Andy Burnham was trying to get the Labour party behind 10 years ago), I can claim to have some experience with popular prejudices in favour of large holdings of wealth that Polly Toynbee wrestles with in her excellent article (To save the arts and all else we hold dear, a wealth tax now seems the only answer, 6 July).
Most people think wealth is a good idea and just needs sharing out in their direction. The most popular method is increases in house prices that you don’t have to work for. But house prices rises simply spread poverty, as the high rents and property values ruin capitalism by leaving people who have to work without the money to buy the totality of production they are engaged in.
As a member of the very leftwing Labour Land Campaign, I remember the confusion among potential young recruits when they realised that the Henry George land tax we were recommending was meant to liberate capitalists, but from a form of monopoly that is bigger than all of us.
• It has seemed increasingly odd that, as the chancellor throws money at shoring up our economy, there has been so little discussion of how this very un-Tory-like approach will be paid for. Polly Toynbee provides a timely reminder that the elephant in the room is wealth. It is a sobering thought that a relatively modest windfall tax could resolve our deficit problems and allow massive investment in things that would make us a civilised country again.
Toynbee quotes Gus O’Donnell, perhaps the best cabinet secretary in recent times because of his willingness to tell ministers when they were getting it wrong. He says that there is no better time to tackle tax reform and that a Tory government could do so more easily than Labour because of the hostile environment that would be created in the media and elsewhere.
Most people have no real idea about average income and wealth, with those towards the top thinking the average is much higher than it is and those towards the bottom believing the opposite. We need a concerted effort to educate the public about the real gaps in income and wealth so that relatively modest changes could be introduced without civil unrest.
• As Polly Toynbee points out, so many sectors are going to need funds. She is suggesting, quite rightly, a windfall tax on all wealth. There is another area from where money could be redirected. The replacement of Trident is estimated to amount to £205bn, if all costs are taken into account. Nuclear-armed submarines cannot keep us safe from terrorists, cyberattacks or pandemics. The Trident replacement should be cancelled; this would free up money for health, education and welfare.
• Larry Elliott (Rishi Sunak’s mini-budget will be the most leftwing in years. Can Labour capitalise?, 7 July) says what I have always believed: there is a magic money tree, and it is fine as long as it produces blue blossoms, not red ones.
St Andrews, Fife
• The “smart” in the “smart mug” that Rishi Sunak posed for a photo with obviously does not refer to the mug who has paid £180 for some sort of heating element and a thermostat (Rishi Sunak poses for pre-budget photo with £180 ‘smart mug’, 7 July).
Lewes, East Sussex
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