Friday, August 17, 2007

More John Redwood, please

I enjoyed John Redwood's report, complete with the entertainingly weird ideas like being able to turn left at red lights, giving trains rubber wheels so they could stop faster and putting cycle lanes on pavements rather than in the roads. Then there's the faith-based recommendations about scrapping regulations on things like money laundering and health and safety. There's something very pleasing about John Redwood being given plenty of time on the telly, just to remind everyone who might have forgotten that people like him used to run the country and want to do so again.

The proposals on inheritance tax seem to me like a victory for the Tories who want to be a right-wing lobby group rather than a possible government. The pressure from this report and from the wealthy people who run disinformation campaigns in the Daily Mail and so on about how many people are affected will probably mean that the government raises the thresholds a bit quicker in future. But going on about how taxes are unfair and too high, but then pledging not to cut them, which appears to be the current Tory position, is incoherent. For people worried that a future Tory government will mess up the economy again and cut important services if they win power, this is the opposite of reassuring.

Redwood also wants to reduce regulation of care homes, as a way of increasing the number of places. Long term care for the elderly and inheritance tax are clearly related issues. For many middle-income families, care home bills cost far more than any amount that they would pay in inheritance tax.

Redwood's vision is one in which increasing numbers of elderly people spend the last years of their lives in unregulated care homes, vulnerable to abuse in institutions whose first duty is to maximise profits for their shareholders, and then when they die, their beneficiaries receive tax-free inheritances based not on their own efforts but how little of their parents' money was spent on their care. A less appealing society to live in can hardly be imagined.

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