‘Please give generously’: Tories mail-shot supporters asking for donations to fight Lib Dem mansion tax

That’s the story in the Guardian this weekend:

The Conservative party privately sent letters to Tory donors and wealthy homeowners promising to defeat Liberal Democrat plans for a mansion tax at the same time as their coalition partners thought they were negotiating on a version of the proposal ahead of the autumn statement, it emerged on Friday. … The letters were sent by the Conservative treasurers Lord Fink and Michael Farmer in November, when Lib Dem cabinet ministers privately believed there was hope that the Conservatives would agree to two extra higher-rate council tax bands as a way of raising funds from wealthy homeowners, mainly in the southeast. They believed they were making progress on the issue with George Osborne, if not with David Cameron. The chancellor had ruled out a mansion tax in his speech to the Tory conference, but Lib Dems claimed he was still open to the idea of extra council tax bands.

And here’s an excerpt from the letter:

The letter, jointly signed by Fink and Farmer, reads: “As you may be aware, the Liberal Democrats and Labour have both called for a homes tax in recent months. “Vince Cable demands a tax on properties worth above £2m. Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls meanwhile told the Independent at the beginning of September that he was planning a proper wealth tax which would include high value properties. The Conservative party are clear that a homes tax will not happen on our watch. …

“A tax on property is a tax on ambition and aspiration. We promise that no homes tax will be introduced during the course of this parliament, but the only way of taking it off the table in the future is the election of a majority Conservative government in 2015, and we can only win with your generous support. To keep the taxman out of your home and return a Conservative government at the next general election, please help by donating today and supporting the ‘No Homes Tax’ campaign.”

Well, it’s not much of a surprise really. Though George Osborne is reportedly sympathetic to shifting the burden of tax away from the low-paid towards those living in high-value properties, David Cameron is also reportedly vigorously against the idea, fearing the London commuter-belt electoral consequences. And it’s those voters, of course, who have the deepest pockets to dig into for Tory coffers.

True, it smacks of bad faith to give the appearance of negotiating while actually having already made up your mind. But to be fair to the Tories, the fact that they are pre-disposed to stick up for their natural constituency of the wealthy ‘haves’ is hardly a surprise. They made that clear in the Coalition Agreement when they refused to consider a ‘mansion tax’, and they’re staying true to that now.

But I was amused to read this story of Tory bad faith in the highest echelons on the same day ConservativeHome launched a broadside against Nick Clegg for highlighting their implacable opposition to property taxes. If you’re going to oppose them, guys, be proud of the fact and embrace the public debate!

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Yes, my wife and daughter (but not me!) received theirs several weeks ago, as I tweeted at the time.

    The Tories’ claim in the letter that they oppose property taxes because they wish to promote ambition and aspiration (or strivers) begs the question why they wish to promote taxes (and/or benefit reductions) based on income instead. And rather than contribute £10,000 pa to buy influence as suggested in the letter, why not contribute to the nation instead?

    I’m no fan of the gimmicky mansion tax, which is disproportionate (1% pa is half the rental value and a complete step-change from the burden of council tax on the first £2m), and arbitrary (why tax single properties worth more than £2m and leave multiple property holdings worth far more untouched?). It would cost a fortune to implement and raise virtually nothing because of mass avoidance through property-splitting.

    I would far rather make our existing council tax bands less regressive by making them more proportionate to the property values they purport to represent and then extend the bands for the mansions which extend well beyond Band H (in England). Or perhaps just revert to the rates? This would also reduce the cost of Council tax benefit because recipients generally live in lower value properties who would be paying less.

  • Tories: fund a campaign to avoid contributing to society instead of contributing to society.

    Or: How much does a Conservative party Treasurer get paid?

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Dec '12 - 1:34pm

    Paul K

    The Tories’ claim in the letter that they oppose property taxes because they wish to promote ambition and aspiration (or strivers)

    For how long does the ambition and aspiration of those who came over with William of Normandy and thus founded our landed aristocracy have to be rewarded? Or the ambition and aspirations of those upstart Grosvenors for acquiring a cabbage patch in Middlesex which is worth a bit these days? Sorry, but what the Tories are REALLY about, deep down and fundamentally, is about reward for owning things, not reward for work. Their opposition to property taxes and their wish instead to tax earnt income is just more of the old Tory idea that aristocratic wealth is a fine and noble thing, but wealth earned by trade is dirty.

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