Vince would have put Myleene Klass in her place on the Mansion Tax

It’s not every day that you wake up and find that you’ve been quoted in the Daily Fail. The story starts late last night when Ed Miliband got into an argument with Myleene Klass over the Mansion Tax. You can see here on ITV Player how he got his backside handed to him on a plate as Myleene took him to task over his policy. Well, actually, it’s our policy. He nicked it. Maybe if he’d had his own policies, he might have been better at defending them.

Myleene was absolutely and utterly in the wrong as far as I’m concerned. If people are privileged enough to be able to afford a £2 million property, then they should be able to afford a relatively modest tax on that significant wealth.  Forgive me for not having much in the way of sympathy for those rich folk who complain about having to find an extra couple of grand a year. The poor have already been squeezed more than they should have been, by successive governments, including the one of which Ed was a member. If we’re going to be a fairer society, then the rich have to pay their share. It’s a total no brainer. It should absolutely be a no-brainer for the leader of a party which claims to represent the workers of the country.

Yet Ed looked, as is often the case, like my puppy does when she sees a bigger dog coming down the street. He missed a few easy opportunities to make the point that it was perfectly reasonable for the biggest burden to fall on the broadest shoulders. Vince would have done. Remember how he took Boris to task, also on the pages of the Daily Fail, earlier this year. He wasn’t full of sympathy for the well-off:

There are a few genuine cases. But this is not a new problem. It is encountered in the council tax system and under the Government’s spare room subsidy. It can be dealt with in the same way, through discretionary treatment of genuine hardship and, if necessary, by rolling up tax obligations against a future sale, as already happens with individuals and families which have large care bills.

Of course there will be some who need help but most wealthy people can help themselves: Freeing up cash by downsizing as many already do; renting out part of a large house; or using equity release.

If Vince had been in that room, he’d have said all of this with confidence. He wouldn’t have apologised for it in any way, shape or form or looked uncomfortable. He’s have taken on her arguments. The “glass of water” argument was just silly.

My biggest problem with Ed Miliband, who is for me the most likeable Labour leader since John Smith, is that he just struggles with the most basic of messages. You shouldn’t want to give a political opponent, a potential Prime Minister a hug and a soothing mug of cocoa every time he gets overwhelmed on the television. Nick Clegg comes up against much worse than Miliband and he always manages to deal with things with grace and humour. I’ve felt cross with Nick when I’ve disagreed with him but never once have I felt sorry for him.

You just get the feeling Ed would be much happier in a dusty old attic writing worthy books with a sheet of foolscap and some pens. He doesn’t look at home with the political rough and tumble.

Anyway, I tweeted about Ed last night and that’s what the Mail picked up and put in their story:

Caron Lindsay added: ‘Myleene Klass is wiping the floor with Ed Miliband on The Agenda – he could be making case so much better.’

Later on in the show, Ed said he liked A-Ha in the 1980s which I thought was a bit cool for him, especially when he said he had a really “square” haircut in those days. He also joked that he’d hired Kim Kardashian to help him with his photo opportunities. Probably the last name I’d have expected to fall from his lips, but never mind. He seems to have put more effort into that than he put into making the case for one of his flagship policies, though. This is not good.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • “Well, actually, it’s our policy. He nicked it. Maybe if he’d had his own policies, he might have been better at defending them.”

    I think that is a bit beneath you Caron. Having a policy adopted by another party demonstrates that an argument is being won not that a policy is being “nicked”. Particularly as it is not a particularly populist one (though I cannot fathom why as it would affect so few). Let’s face it free school meals were a Labour initiative once described by the Lib Dem leader in Wales as lunch box politics… ALthough at least Nick can explain the benefits and argue against the opponents.

    Where I totally agree is that Milliband is terrible at countering even the most obvious of arguments. He misses open goals most weeks at PMQ’s and has no “presence” when addressing us mere mortals. He is probably Labour’s biggest liability, and when you consider they are a party with Ed Balls on the front bench that is quite a statement!

    Nick has all of the presentation skills and is good at thinking on his feet. He has however lost the respect of so many that he is a liability for completely different reasons.

    Vince would have destroyed Klass. I believe he was seen at the outset of the coalition as a threat to the Tories because of his approach and general “likeability “. That probably explains why he was given the task of leading on tuition fees and will be (to a lesser extent than Clegg) tainted because of it.

  • The problem with falling on to the media bandwagon of trying to undermine Mliband is that it is suicide for Liberal Democrats, especially when he is promoting a policy very similar to our own.

    Who benefits from Mliband being undermined?
    Who are the Tory Media trying to help by devoting so much time and effort to underine Mliband?

    If your answer to either question is “The Liberal Democrats” you are making a profound mistake and the Conservative Party will laugh at you all the way to the ballot box.

  • Cameron Rae 18th Nov '14 - 2:24pm

    I believe the Labour implementation of the mansion tax would be done in a different way. The added council tax band approach is a Lib Dem one, and I believe the revenue raised would go towards council coffers. I think Labour would introduce a cruder version of the model, with funding going to the NHS.

    There is some justification for a mansion tax, but its effects on London should not be written off. Often, those in expensive houses in London are told they can sell and downsize, but house prices hardly decrease around here and there is no upper threshold on prices – they just go up. So those downsizing will find it challenging to find a new home in their area. This is an issue for the elderly who may be asset-rich, cash-poor, and who may have purchased their home years ago when prices were much lower. An adjustment for the market value of houses in the area or city would therefore make sense.

    On the point around ‘nicked’ policies, the Liberal Democrats are clearly the UK’s most influential cross-party think tank (think also the Tories’ commitments on raising the income tax allowance). While the LDs are in Government now, they often are not. It is beneficial that Liberal arguments can cut through and be taken on by other parties. I know a lot of LDs, including myself, believe in a non-partisan Government that can be run through a coalition of both parties and views. So ‘nicked’ policies are a good thing.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Nov '14 - 2:25pm

    John Tilley
    Did you see the exchange? You might think that LDV have an obligation to subordinate all other considerations to the War on the Tories, but no one with an ounce of journalism in their bones could look away from the Labour leader being completely outklassed (sorry) by a celeb who thinks “you might as well tax me on this glass of water” is a meaningful argument. The man’s a clever fool. I only hope if he does end up as prime minister in six months (which remains quite likely) that he’ll turn out to be good at that, because he’s absolutely hopeless in his current role.

  • John Tilly’
    Exactly, This is how any kind of left leaning progressive policies get destroyed. Attacking fellow travellers achieves nothing except constantly playing into hands of the economic right. It actually just puts potential voters off. Most of the people who post here are liberals and presumably want the policies. The other point is that an overwhelmingly Right Wing press will declare advocates of their favoured view the winner whether they’ve won or not. Nick Clegg learned this to his cost in the Farage debates. You can only come out of a fixed fight with dignity if you refuse to engage in it.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Nov '14 - 2:51pm

    I think the mansion tax is a very bad policy. Better alternatives are a higher income tax or a net-asset tax.

  • I agree Caron Ed was like a rabbit in a cars headlight and his only comeback was attacking the room tax same old political tactic don’t answer the question

    I agree if people are asset rich they can pay extra when they sell or die and if the argument is these are older people I see no reason why they can not sell and move on maybe even freeing bedrooms in the process

    Why on earth do they get a reduced rate when people who have even less than the recipients of spare room subsidy get the top up funded from people who have even less income. Some should try harder at being Robin Hood not the Sherif of Nottingham

  • The assumption that what is bad for Labour is good for the Liberal Democrats may have been true in the past, but it is certainly not true now. Even Liberal Democrat defectors who become disenchanted with Labour are hardly forced to return to the Liberal Democrats; they might go to the Greens on the left or to UKIP on the right, or to a nationalist party. As the reasons for the defection have not been removed, return to the Lib Dems is the least likely option.

  • I know an aged couple in Kew, bought their house in 1962. They do not have much in thebank and their pensions are not great, they are in fact no rich by any stretch of the imagination. They did however scrimp and save to pay their mortgage etc. They have a house worth well over a million, well over. Question should they pay more, it will just mean more tightening of their belt at their age, they may have to turn the heating down! Sometimes the rich and poor argument has problems. Please do not say well they can sell it and downsize, not all people are like that or want to do it. They certainly should not be forced to.,

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Nov '14 - 5:04pm

    Did you not read the quote from Vince in the OP? Here it is again:

    There are a few genuine cases. But this is not a new problem. It is encountered in the council tax system and under the Government’s spare room subsidy. It can be dealt with in the same way, through discretionary treatment of genuine hardship and, if necessary, by rolling up tax obligations against a future sale, as already happens with individuals and families which have large care bills.
    Of course there will be some who need help but most wealthy people can help themselves: Freeing up cash by downsizing as many already do; renting out part of a large house; or using equity release.

    No need for your elderly friends in Kew to move or to impoverish themselves. The tax can be rolled up until they do decide to move, or are moved on by the inevitable and it is paid by their heirs.

    And just for the record — “they are in fact not rich by any stretch of the imagination”: yes, they are! They have a million-pound house! Even in London, most people don’t have that, and the potential that it gives. Of course, it would be vindictive to penalise those whose only real asset is their home, which has inflated in value due to factors completely out of their control. But taking back a proportion (probably quite a small proportion at that) of the value they have done nothing to acquire at the point when it is realised is not, by any stretch of the imagination, penalising them.

  • Anybody trying to counter a screeching woman would have had to shout over them & if Miliband had done, doubtless he would be being villified for shouting her down.

    I thought his tolerance of her ignorance was admirable.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Nov '14 - 5:38pm

    Ah, so a woman expressing an opinion in an animated way is screeching, is she, Martin? Men shout and behave aggressively all the time, yet a woman holds her ground in an argument and she’s screeching. She was wrong, but there was nothing wrong with the way she conducted herself during the discussion and he should have been a lot better. Nick would have been, actually, as well as Vince.

  • Nice straw man you erected there Caron.

    I know you’re a woman but surely you can agree she was screeching. Crikey, even Tom Bradby intervened to try & quieten her ! It wasn’t a discussion until she allowed her opponents to speak.

    I’ve seen Nick be aggressive to women in the Commons & it sickens me – any man yelling at or over a woman does.

  • George Potter what you would do is one thing, but you cannot impose that on others,can you, seems quite illiberal to me. All their family are nearby etc etc.

  • Malcolm Todd and George Potter are right. theakes is wrong.
    Anyone sitting in a house worth more than a million is rich. There are no two ways about it.
    That’s what the word rich means.

    Nobody “forces” anyone to sell an asset. Nobody forces anyone to live in a house they would be better off selling.

  • Nigel Cheeseman 18th Nov '14 - 6:26pm

    One problem with the mansion tax is the message it sends . It reminds me of Denis Healey’s, “squeeze the rich until the pips squeak”, which put off middle class people (particularly younger professionals) from voting Labour during the seventies. Tax must be fair, and be seen to be fair. It is perfectly feasible to overhaul the council tax system by adding bands , whilst at the same time protecting those who are in hardship. Which reminds me, doesn’t our party have a policy of replacing council tax with local income tax?
    On the other hand, if you really prefer wealth distribution through taxation, come out and say it and watch your party sink beneath the waves.

  • Helen Tedcastle 18th Nov '14 - 6:34pm

    John Tilley’s comment is right, ‘ The problem with falling on to the media bandwagon of trying to undermine Miliband is that it is suicide for Liberal Democrats, especially when he is promoting a policy very similar to our own.’

    I don’t agree with the view that Miliband did that badly against Klass. To my mind, she came across so obviously as having a vested interest in opposing this policy – a wealthy TV celebrity with a house in London – that Miliband didn’t need to go for the jugular.

    @ Martin B – No, Klass wasn’t screeching. She wasn’t ‘a screeching woman’ as you put it in stereotypical fashion. She was animated and fired up against Miliband. She attacked the policy at some length. That is why Bradby intervened – not because of the tone of her voice.

  • Ed Miliband behaved in a perfectly reasonable and well mannered way to a situation in which not only did Klass continuously and rudely shout over him but so did the other panel members. Hopefully Vince and Nick would have been equally polite. I am always surprised by the way those that call themselves liberal are ready to jump on a propaganda bandwagon.

  • @Caron Lindsay
    “he should have been a lot better. Nick would have been, actually”

    Having watched Nick’s woeful performances against Farage, I’m not convinced he would have done better than Miliband against Klass.

  • “If Vince had been in that room, he’d have said all of this with confidence.”

    I’m not convinced. I remember an episode of question time where Vince was facing similar arguments from Kirstie Alsopp and has response was almost non-existent. It was left to Clive Anderson to put up an argument for land value tax.

  • @Stuart

    Whilst the Farage debates weren’t a highlight of recent Liberal hsitory, to give Nick his due – he has addressed similar points on Call Clegg quite effectively.

  • Jennifer Liddle 19th Nov '14 - 12:36pm

    “Anyone sitting in a house worth more than a million is rich. There are no two ways about it.
    That’s what the word rich means.”

    Owning a house is one thing. Owning a home is something else.

    “Nobody “forces” anyone to sell an asset.”

    A second house, or a house being rented out, is an asset. A home is not an asset.
    I think there is a huge and very important difference here.

  • Jennifer Liddle 19th Nov ’14 – 12:36pm

    It is a shame that your concept of a “home” is not used by those enforcing the bedroom tax.

    I hope that you would accept that being forced out of your home because you cannot afford to pay a sudden increase rent (above and beyond your original rent agreement) is slightly more traumatic than having to debate whether your million pound pound home is an asset or not?

    I own my home and although it is worth less than a million pounds I have absolutely no doubt that it is an asset.

    You have chosen to make a distinction between a home and an asset. That’s your choice but not necessarily one that would be justified by a dictionary.

  • Malcolm Todd 19th Nov '14 - 3:37pm

    George Potter
    “With a house worth well over £2 million I would happily sell up and relocate to a much nicer, but much cheaper, house elsewhere in the country and put the vast surplus into funding a comfortable retirement myself.”

    To be fair, George, you are young. Even I, at not quite 50 and having lived in one town for 30 years, would be reluctant to sell up and move; I think the people theakes is talking about are probably considerably older and I do think it would be oppressive to require someone who has lived most or all of their lives in one place to up sticks and move away from their neighbours, friends and memories; which is of course exactly why the sort of concessions Vince Cable described are necessary (and also why John Tilley is right to make the comparison with bedroom tax, where no such humanity seems to apply).

  • Jennifer Liddle 19th Nov '14 - 4:41pm

    JohnTilley said:
    “You have chosen to make a distinction between a home and an asset. That’s your choice but not necessarily one that would be justified by a dictionary.”

    It’s justified by my dictionary, which sayd:
    “an item of property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments, or legacies:”
    My home is not available to meet debts unless I want to become homeless. It does not earn any income for me (which is another usual definition of an asset). It’s my home. It’s where I live.

    I’m afraid I don’t understand what this has to do with the bedroom tax.

  • Malcolm Todd 19th Nov '14 - 5:19pm

    Is there some common source for this bizarre “a home is not an asset” meme, or does it just happen to have arisen on two threads independently? The proposal — whether it’s a mansion tax or one of the much more sensible alternatives (LVT or just a rational extension to Council Tax) — is not to tax the cosy notion of “home”, which can mean many things and is by no means exclusive to an owner-occupied property; it is to tax ownership of land and/or the buildings standing on it.

    Yes, this is an asset. You can realise its value in a number of ways – by renting out all of it, or part of it, or by selling it; or you can simply enjoy the value of its location and amenity without monetizing that. Choosing not to sell something because you want to continue to enjoy it does not mean that it is not “available” to discharge your debts (if it were not, it would not be possible to use your home as security for a loan, which the majority of us do at some point in our lives).

    Selling or renting out the house that you own does not “make you homeless”. If you cannot pay the costs, including taxes, of the home you are currently occupying, then you are living somewhere you cannot afford and you will have to downshift to somewhere you can afford or find some means of improving your situation so that you can afford it. (Does this demonstrate the connection with bedroom tax sufficiently clearly?) As mentioned above, it will not be hard to come up with ways of mitigating these effects on those for whom the second of these alternatives is impractical and the first inhumane.

  • Jennifer Liddle 19th Nov ’14 – 4:41pm

    Jennifer, the answer to your point is provided in some detail if you read through the comment from Malcolm Todd 19th Nov ’14 – 5:19pm

    I may be able to illustrate the point to you as follows —

    If you are ever unfortunate enough to get into serious debt you may find that the courts and the bailiffs will not listen to your own particular definition of the word “asset”.

    I am no expert but I think they will regard your home, the property that you own and live in, as an asset, as something that can be sold and used to pay off your debts.

    If you push the authorities too far on this you might find out that your new home is in one of Her Majesty’s Prisons.

    Or if you are slightly luckier you might find yourself in rented social housing. The connection between this discussion and the bedroom tax may then become much clearer.

  • It would appear (see Independent report of popular response) that Myleene Klass was not so popular on this as some would have had us think —

    As The Independent’s Jenn Selby puts it —
    Not everyone thought Myleene Klass’s heated debate with Ed Miliband on The Agenda was quite the Paxman-esque take down it was hyped up to be.

    While Miliband’s approach to the singer’s rant about Labour’s proposed mansion tax was a little too laid back for some political commentators, others criticised the pop star – who reportedly recently sold her London home for over £2million – for bemoaning the austerity measure purely because she would be in the minority of homeowners it would directly affect.

    Pretty soon, that criticism turned to out-and-out cynicism, and a screenshot of a fake JustGiving page, asking for donations from people to help ‘poor Myleene Klass’ pay her mansion tax, started circulating on Twitter:

    Please help poor @KlassMyleene by giving generously

    Matthew Bingham (@mattdbingham) November 17, 2014
    Just Giving: Help Myleene No-Klass pay her Mansion Tax. HT @HuffPostUK

    Phillip Hughes (@phillipmhughes) November 19, 2014

    Looks like Myleene’s attempt at Klass War has exploded in her face.

  • Tsar Nicolas 20th Nov '14 - 9:56am

    Re: John Tilley’s response to Jennifer Liddle.

    One of the sneakiest things the Lib Dems in government have supported is to reduce the level at which a creditor can apply for a charging order on your house down from £25,000 to just £1,000.

    A small UNSECURED payday loan can now end with an application to the courts for the sale of your house.

  • Jennifer Liddle 20th Nov '14 - 10:14am

    I think the problem I have this this “your home is an asset” idea is that having a roof over your head is not a luxury, any more than access to food, water and clothing. Calling a home an ‘asset’ may or may not be correct in a technical sense (depending on how you define your terms), but it’s like saying that the shirt on your back is an asset because you could sell it, or access to clean water is an asset.

    I do accept that I’m coming at this from the position of an older person who does not expect to move house again, and expects to live where I am until I die. I accept that somebody who has just bought their first flat and expects it to increase in value so that they can sell it and move to a larger property may see things differently.

  • Simon McGrath 20th Nov '14 - 10:52am

    @Tsar – can you explain why you think someone with an asset which may be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds should not pay their debts?

  • Paul in Wokingham 20th Nov '14 - 10:58am

    @Jennifer Liddle – I agree completely with the sentiment of your argument but as we all know only too well, many people have become addicted to the idea that the house they inhabit is a kind of ATM machine from which money can be withdrawn – via remortgaging – to fund lifestyle expenditure. This creates a dependency on low interest rates (cf Cameron’s recent comments about the “loveliness” of the current base rate) and rising house prices. We all want “something for nothing” – wealth created ex nihilo. And some – like Ms Klass – engage in special pleading when their right to privilege is challenged.

  • Jennifer Liddle 20th Nov ’14 – 10:14am
    Jennifer, your latest comment is entirely understandable and I hope you do not think I have been overly pedantic in repeating my earlier point.

    I am in complete agreement with you about access to clean water.
    The privatisation of the water supply in England by the Thatcher Government was a breathtaking example of right wing politicians knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. It is a shame that sort of free market extremist thinking can now even be found in the darker corners of our party.

    By the way I too come to this from the perspective of an older person. I have lived in my house for well over twenty years and am one of those lucky enough to have paid off my mortgage.
    I am only too aware of how lucky I am and that in cmparison there is a whole generation of students out there who because they are piling up student debt will never be able to get a mortgage in the first place.

  • Tsar Nicolas 20th Nov '14 - 1:03pm

    @Simon McGrath

    I discovered the change when helping out alocal fmaily with debt. We are in south wales and the hosue is worth no more than about £100,000.

    Both parents are now working, but no more than 25 hours per week on just above minimum wage.

    problems began with wife’s credit card debt of less than £2,000 when hubby lost his previous full-time job. After seven months out of work hubby got job at supermarket on no more than 25 hours per week.

    The change means that a charging order has now been placed on the family home. If an order for sale is approved, then the small debt will be paid, but the family will be homeless as it will be difficult to get a new mortgage with a dodgy credit rating.

    No social housing is available so the family will be forced to go to the private sector and be at the mercy of short-term leases and landlords who dislike being asked to repair.

    The family were protected before the Liberal Democrat change and now they are at the mercy of the merciless financial institutions who receive a massive boost every day from the bank of England by the mechanism of of quantitative easing.

    I am all in favour of repaying debt but not when the consequence is the destruction of a family.

  • Simon McGrath 20th Nov '14 - 1:58pm

    @Tsar – they have an asset worth £100k – a huge amount and yet you think they should not have to pay back £2,000.

  • Simon McGrath 20th Nov '14 - 2:03pm

    @Tsar -sorry pressed button too soon. What we need is a way creditors can put a charge on property but not force a sale.

  • Tsar Nicolas 20th Nov '14 - 6:32pm

    @Simon McGrath

    How about restoring the £25,000 limit on charging orders? Or would that upset the City of London?

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