eiDaily Digest – 50p Tax Rate, Internet Pornography & Peace & Globalisation – 28th January

28 Jan 14 | Daily Digest


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Tuesday 28th January 2014 (UK edition)
Comment Headlines
Top three stories dominating today’s op-ed columns…

1. 50p TAX RATE:

The FT’s Janan Ganesh believes that the problem is not that Labour is divided over 50p. The problem is that it is not. Here is a party of increasingly homogenous worldview, so denuded of an influential rightwing that a tax rise which would once have been laughed out of the room now arouses desk-banging rapture, with no one of note around to file a minority report. The reverse parallel with the Conservatives, once riven over Europe but now monolithically eurosceptic, suggests itself. In The Times Rachel Sylvester thinks there is a problem with Labour’s announcement that it would restore the 50p tax rate. Despite the business backlash there is nothing wrong with the policy itself – it is fair that the richest should contribute the most – but it is too predictable. The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee says that in hard times sharing more fairly feels more politically vital. The 50p tax rate
helps, but above all it levers open a public conversation New Labour avoided. Does Britain want to grow ever more socially unjust? Labour may still have ground to win on economic credibility but yesterday, when David Cameron said a 50p rate would be “very, very bad for the economy”, he may find that defying it proves very, very bad for his party. The Daily Telegraph’s Benedict Brogan says the idea of soaking the rich may be popular in the pub, but the Prime Minister is counting on voters to put aside their anger and understand the deeper questions at stake. He must hope that it won’t just be business leaders who will see through the populism of reviving the 50p rate. The Independent’s Steve Richards says the personal ratings of Eds Miliband and Balls are poor. He doubts if they will improve very much before the election. But in the same way that the diaries of Labour’s
cabinet ministers from the 1970s show how they greatly underestimated Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron and George Osborne place too much faith in their complacent misreading of Labour’s duo at the top. The Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts hopes that sufficient numbers of British voters — sufficient, that is, to balance out the unfair election system — will see through bully Balls’s bluster. It seems literally incredible that such a proven bungler, a man whose mistakes helped land us with the worst deficit in the developed world, may in 16 months’ time have his hands back on our economic destiny.


In The Guardian Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, who edits The Vagenda blog, argues that porn in and of itself is not the problem; after all, it’s just people, having sex, on a screen, sometimes not especially convincingly. No, porn is not the problem: it’s the complete and utter absence of any other narrative that is, and the disappointing failure of our government to provide one. In The Times Hugo Rifkind argues that if internet pornography wasn’t so nasty we might not be so worried about young teenagers being influenced by it. The great challenge is to get young people to think about why it is when they go looking for porn it is images of pliant women on their knees that they will always find.


The FT’s Gideon Rachman says the idea that capitalism and globalisation are the best antidotes to political conflict – for all its flaws – retains a lot of attraction. Even if the old economic treatments for political conflict are losing some of their potency, they are still the best we have. In The Guardian Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German foreign minister, thinks the loss of trust in the European project which has accompanied the economic crisis in Europe, in recent years particularly prominent in the young generation hit by unemployment and the lack of prospects in large parts of the EU, holds great danger. In such an atmosphere, it is easy to fall back on nationalist rhetoric, sung to the catchy tune of criticism of Europe. Given our history, we must firmly resist this.

Book of the day

Alexandra Pringle

Group Editor-in-Chief, Bloomsbury Publishing

‘Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan’ by William Dalrymple

“It is one of the most exciting books of next year and because it reveals why a war can never be won in that country.”

Leader Lines
The most interesting leaders of the day…


The FT says Ed MIliband seems to believe the electoral maths will allow his party to scrape over the Downing Street threshold in 2015 by relying solely on its core vote. But he should remember that political parties rarely win elections if they alienate business. Tony Blair understood that – and he won three successive elections. Being nice or nasty to millionaires is not the issue. It is about fostering a climate in which British companies can prosper and grow.


The Times says Britain already has a serious party of the mainstream right. It is called the Conservative Party. As a fringe party Ukip makes sense. Follow the NewKip idea to its logical conclusion and it makes no sense at all. You end up with something very like the Conservative Party.


The Independent says tonight’s State of the Union address represents almost the last chance for Barack Obama to re-invigorate his gently subsiding presidency. Last time, with memories of a resounding election victory still fresh, great things seemed possible. But 2013 proved the most dismal of his five years in office; by the end of it, his approval rating had fallen to barely 40 per cent, amid growing evidence that voters no longer trusted him. This suggests he may be losing even the personal appeal that had been his strongest political asset.

What the Bloggertariat
is saying today

The Staggers

Stop stigmatising the unemployed: the problem is the lack of decent jobs

View website

Coffee House

Why Ed Balls is deceiving us about his plans, and the 50p tax

View website


News as assets

View website

Comment Cornucopia
Some of the wide-ranging topics covered today…


In The International New York Times Roger Cohen says Egypt, home to about a quarter of all Arabs and the fulcrum of the Arab Spring, is in a disastrous state. Tahrir Square, emblem of youthful hope and anti-dictatorial change three years ago, is home now to Egyptians baying for a military hero with the trappings of a new Pharaoh to trample on the “terrorists” of the Muslim Brotherhood. This Egyptian debacle is a significant strategic failure for the United States, and of course, like red lines that proved not to be so red in Syria, it has sent a message of American retreat.


The Daily Mail’s Richard Littlejohn says there have to be measures in place to prevent financial crime but they must be applied with common sense. Not allowing customers to withdraw their own cash from high street banks is beyond stupid. Approaching every customer as if they are a potential criminal is a disgrace. rules aimed at stamping out money-laundering by Mexican drugs cartels has resulted in middle-class bank customers in Middle England being refused access to their own money.


The Guardian’s Martin Woollacott thinks there can be something akin to love between peoples. In the debate on Scottish independence this seems too often forgotten. Divorce lawyers’ bickering over currency arrangements, nuclear weapons and economic advantage takes precedence over appraisal of what is at the heart of the marriage. We are, after all, talking about breaking up a love match. It did not begin as one, but it came to be one, and was long celebrated as such on both sides. Then it cooled. Yet although bonds of this kind can erode, they can also be revived.

Tweet Comment of the Day


How long is Ed Balls?

Tomorrow’s comment forecast
Come rain or shine there will be comment tomorrow. What might prompt it?

Ukraine… UK GDP…Buckingham Palace


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