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There’s a left way to take

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Issue 1680

What we think

There’s a left way to take

TONY BLAIR’S popularity is on the slide. Nine months ago 62 percent of people polled said they were satisfied with Blair, and 28 percent said they were not – a gap of 34 percent. Today just 49 percent are satisfied and 40 percent are not – a gap of just 9 percent. As the pro New Labour Mirror says, “Tony Blair’s popularity is waning and waning fast.”

The rise in “not satisfieds” does not signal growing support for William Hague and his crazed lieutenants. People are disillusioned with Blair because they expected Labour to ditch Tory-style measures – especially in the NHS – and it is not happening.

Any Labour cabinet minister facing these figures and speaking to a group of workers would say, “OK, we know we’re not perfect, but the only alternative is the return of the Tories, and think how awful that would be.” But there is a left wing alternative to New Labour. Take one example. New Labour’s pathetic excuses for the crisis in the NHS rest on the idea that there is no extra money available now. But this is a lie, and many people have already rumbled the government.

An opinion poll in the Observer last week showed that three quarters of voters thought chancellor Gordon Brown is wrong to cut the basic rate of income tax from this April and that the money should be used to fund the NHS instead. But the poll did not ask the real question – do you support taxing the rich to pay for the NHS and other crucial services?

Thatcher tax levels would raise billions

THE CASE for taxing the rich is simple. These parasites made vast sums under the Tories. A Labour government should surely at least return to the tax rates of the first nine years of Margaret Thatcher’s regime.

  • From 1979 to 1988, under that nasty, pro-rich, anti-worker Thatcher government, the top rate of tax was 63 percent.

Today, in the third year of a Labour government, it is just 40 percent. If income tax rates were returned to the early Thatcher levels they would raise at least 7 billion extra every year.

  • At present no national insurance is paid on incomes over 575 a week.

If all income was liable to national insurance it would raise 5 billion a year.

  • In 1979 the richest 20 percent of people took 37 percent of all income. Now they grab around 45 percent.

If these people were once again reduced through taxation to a 37 percent share of all income, it would raise 20 billion a year, each and every year.

  • Brown has also given even more to the rich by raising the thresholds for inheritance tax, cutting tax on share options and slashing corporation tax, the tax on profits.

If these moves were reversed over 4 billion a year would be raised. Taxing the rich is at the heart of an alternative strategy which would move away from the Tory agenda carried on by New Labour. The money is there to fund the NHS and education, and to deliver the better public services that we need.

Get the message, Mr Blair?

“THE 3.4 percent rise is just an insult to nurses and health workers. I’ve had to do agency nursing work because I just couldn’t afford to live on NHS wages, even when working overtime. You have to work 60 or 70 hours a week just to be able to make up enough money to pay for housing and bills in London. It is impossible to get a decent standard of living and that is why so many nurses are quitting. Across London wards are run 15 percent below proper staffing levels. How does that help patients?”

  • TONIA McCARDLE, nurse

“THE GOVERNMENT’S pay offer is nowhere near enough. Nursing assistants will still be getting under 11,000 a year. Nurses drop out of training because they can’t afford to live while they train. When they are qualified they get no reward. I work in a community-based hospital and during the flu crisis we’ve seen the wards fill up with mainly elderly people. But you know people are often suffering needlessly. It makes me so angry. We have to see people dying and we know it need not happen if the government paid for the resources and staff.”

  • MARK TAYLOR, who works as a nursing assistant

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