OPINION - The Standard View: Labour should be up front about tax

 (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

There lies a contradiction at the heart of Labour’s diagnosis of what ails Britain. On the one hand, a nation afflicted by decaying public services, rising homelessness and faltering local government finances. On the other, “working people” (a deliberately undefined term) will not have to pay more. If this is an unstable proposition in the midst of an election campaign, it is likely to topple over in government.

Labour has ruled out raising the big three: income tax, national insurance and VAT. But that still leaves hundreds of billions of pounds worth of potential rises and levies. The alternative is painful spending cuts — something a brand new Labour government with a potentially landslide majority would be unlikely to implement.

Of course, the Tories themselves have little credibility on tax. The 2019 parliament saw the largest increase in the tax take of any parliament on record, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Indeed, the tax take will be an astonishing £93 billion higher in 2024-25 than if it had remained at the same percentage of national income as in 2019-20.

If Labour intends to raise taxes to repair the public realm, that is a reasonable proposition. But Sir Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves must make the case for it. What else are elections for?

Stability is back

London has regained its crown from Paris as Europe’s largest equity market, less than two years after losing the title. While the FTSE 100 has hit record highs this year, the reality is that this latest development has more to do with the political upheaval in France than boom times in the City, following Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call snap elections.

Yet that in and of itself is notable. For nearly a decade since the EU referendum result, the UK has been the chaotic man of Europe, going through five prime ministers and seven chancellors. Despite currently being in the midst of an election, Britain is enjoying a period of relative stability, something investors have long valued. In that regard, we may have finally returned to normal.

Jude’s the real deal

If anyone were still unsure whether Jude Bellingham is the real deal, a goal and a dominant performance provides the answer. That he is only 20 adds to the sense of wonder.

As for England’s performance as a whole, it can be filed under “a win is a win”. They will have to improve as the tournament progresses, not least in their game management in the second half.

Despite occasional grumbles, as Harold Macmillan might have said: England fans have never had it so good.