There is something tremendously refreshing in the return to normal left-right politics – or rather, in the return of the politics of community versus the politics of self-interest. And there’s no clearer sign that we’re back in that land than the resighting of our old friend, the Tory canard that is the “politics of envy.” Here comes Tim Montgomerie, raising the flag of indifference to others:
It was one one of the few real accomplishments of New Labour that they appeared to understand that heavy taxation of the wealth was counterproductive, leading to a brain drain of talent and a killing of incentives. That belief died today. Old Labour is back and with it an attempt to reignite the politics of envy. Paul Goodman MP recently reminded us where envy takes us: “In the medium to long term, envy means lower profits, less wealth, fewer jobs, less money for public services.”
Brilliant right-wing corrosion of language. Assert that something means something else – in this case, that progressive taxation means “envy.” Then go from there.
Look, Tim. Just look. The last two decades have seen a massive, obese, wobbly explosion in personal wealth. A great many people have become very, very rich. You can’t walk through London these days without tripping over a millionaire. It’s been a lovely, lovely time for the money men. And now the chickens have come home to roost. Millions of people are being affected by the collapse of a system which engendered huge paper wealth with little long term capital investment (no railroads or telecoms networks this time around, no sir). We’re all going to have tighten belts, put money aside, and generally act a little bit more like adults in a library rather than kids in a low-security sweet shop. The impact of the recession on someone earning less than Â£20,000 is going to be much harder than the impact of a tax rise on someone earning more than Â£150,000. That’s not envy. It’s fact. The new reality is this: we’re only going to get out of this by working together. Community is the new deregulation. Deal with it, and don’t try and set up abstract social divisions by banging on about “envy.” It just won’t wash.