I gratefully received this enjoyable press release yesterday:

Speaking in this morning’s Green Party debate on Public Services in Scotland, Derek Brownlee MSP, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Sustainable Growth, said:
“There is a simple option for Patrick Harvie, the Greens and the usual collection of self proclaimed socialists who lecture us on a daily basis on the need to tax and spend more.
“They can follow the example of Hazel Blears, write a cheque for whatever amount of extra tax they feel they should pay and send it off to HM Revenue and Customs.
“The cheque will be cashed. Their guilt will be assuaged. Another part of Labour’s debt will be repaid.
“There is nothing stopping any socialist in this country putting their money where their mouth is and paying more tax – the new progressive coalition government will not prevent any socialist in this country from putting their deeply held principles into practice.”

Let’s step back a minute here. The City is already rolling in cash again, if it ever really stopped to be. You can certainly see it at every turn where I work just off Threadneedle St in London. Traders, bankers and investors suppressing grins, checking booming property and share portfolios and hoping above hope that the political spotlight won’t fall on them any time soon or the game may be up. Like a gully that had experienced recent drought, the luscious water is pouring back in as unsustainably cheap share prices and volatile markets start to reap massive dividends for a select few once more.

And against this backdrop, Derek Brownlee would seemingly have us allowing the rich to pay less tax and welfare cuts and job losses to bite hard amongst the poor.

It has always struck me as unfair that when any party proposes raising taxes, the instant rebuke is that families are already struggling to meet the cost of bills, rent and food, as if any tax cut would automatically zero in on those who can least afford to pay, which is so rarely the case.

There is little doubt that a rebalancing of our economy is overdue. There was a strong will for this to happen at the height of the financial storm and now, despite Labour, Conservative and Lib Dems all having been in power at a UK level over this period, and (admittedly hamstrung) SNP in power at a Scottish level, the status quo has continued.

Of course Holyrood has limited powers but this Land Value Tax idea that the Scottish Greens are proposing can, and should, be part of the solution. Not that this press release chooses to deal with that, or any, detailed policy proposal head on. That’s not the only enjoyable disappointment though.

The linkage of Patrick Harvie with Hazel Blears is bizarre. It is at best clumsy and at worst, well, I probably shouldn’t say. Hazel paid a cheque for a tax liability that was quite clearly due from her and occurred in the heat of the expenses scandals. Neither of these factors apply to the leader of the Greens.

Furthermore, Derek Brownlee is proposing ‘self-proclaimed Socialists’ pay tax as some sort of charitable donation. As it happens, there is no process or mechanism for an individual to pay HMRC more tax than he or she is due to pay. The Treasury is not Barnardos or Oxfam. I daresay most of these Socialists are thinking hard about where to spend their money, where cash can be targeted in local economies in order to best aid struggling businesses and those most in need. There is a short-cut to bring about the necessary fairness, fairness that every party seemed to be falling over each other to promise less than a year ago but are yet to deliver.

At opposite ends of the spectrum, and perhaps even creating the real, meaningful dividing line, are a Conservative Party that believes that community spirit via The Big Society can paper over the cracks and fissures that spending cuts will inevitably cause and a Green party that believes in decreasing the inequality gap and increasing social mobility through something more reliable and substantial as the tax system.

I’m not going to do something as imbecilic as trying to pay extra money to the Treasury directly but I make no secret of the fact that I would happily pay more tax and would vote to do so accordingly.

‘Tax and spend’ is the strangest of insults from a politician. It is what Government’s are in business to do after all.