On the re-opening of SLPP Office … “We would never encourage violence” John Benjamin...

Sierra Leone News: Post Mark: London

Thorny roads plus a stubborn electorate causes headache for British politicians  
THE other day, coming back to London from Holland I had the most amazing chat with an American who lives and works in England as a banker in the City of London. He told me that Finance Directors in England are more worried about political stalemate after the election in May 7th than deflation, Eurozone troubles, emerging markets crises and bigger interest rate. Hmm, I replied, “Are you surprised”? He asked. Well, kind of, I said; look, he said, “I am coming from a Board meeting in Holland and the instruction from the Board is to put expansion plans on hold and that the London office should start planning defensive measures, such as strengthening cash buffers and cutting costs.”
Another shocker was the Conservative proposed referendum on Britain membership of the European Union. This, without any doubt is a big blow to the Prime Minister and his Conservative party. And on the other side of the same coin, my traveling partner pointed out that when it comes to Labour, their biggest concern is that a Labour government after the election would introduce “quick fixes” and interventionist policies, hindering job growth and sending a signal that Britain was no longer open for business,
As we joined the airfields bus to take us to the KLM plane, a voice in my head told me that Britain is facing its most uncertain election since 1974, when Labour cobbled together a coalition that limped on for eight months. Polls and election experts have warned that no party is expected to secure a majority in next month’s election.
This week, both the Labour Party and the Conservatives have launched their manifestos, but as I write, 4am, Thursday April 15th, the latest public opinion polls are nothing to write home about, both parties are neck and neck, with the smaller parties all eating into what was once strong holds for the Labour party and the Conservatives. On Wednesday, I took a stroll down Westminster to get a feel of what was going on around the headquarters of both Labour and the Conservatives parties. And I must report that as I write, the mood in both parties is that of insecurity about the failures to make a breakthrough in the polls.
At the London Press Club, where I was reminded that my subscription has lapsed, I was informed by a few colleagues that anxiety is turning into anger at the Conservatives headquarters, about the negative and unimaginative message that candidates say is backfiring on the door steps, and that already the blame game has begun. An old friend from BBC Radio 4 revealed that a Conservative God-father blames the failure to break through in the polls on the “curse of Osborne,” the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or Minister of Finance to you in Africa.
The beauty of the London Press club is the service; the good food and wine at very reasonable prices. So it was a good time for my whisky as I sat-down to listen and learn more about what is going on. The chaps down at headquarters are not very happy, I was told; according to one hack, the old boys are mad with the Chancellor. I understood one of them recently said that the Chancellor “is all about political calculation,” and that “he is trying to be clever and it hasn’t worked because there’s no sense of purpose.  It’s just polishing the turd.”
The Prime Minister was not spared either; within the Conservatives old guards, Mr. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister is accused of lacking conviction. “He doesn’t sell his own political beliefs possibly because he doesn’t know what they are,” according to one of his former minister.
From Westminster to the South Kensington, and on to the South of England which is the strong hold of the Conservatives, the biggest concern is that the party leadership has not converted the argument of “austerity into the language of hope,” for the British public to beginning to fall in love with the party.
Jenni Russell, a London Times newspaper journalist who knows the British Prime Minister, talked of the Prime Minister’s performances during the two recent television debates; events the Conservatives were hoping will bring the break through. She said the PM’s interview with the BBC Jeremy Paxman highlighted the Prime Minister’s vulnerability. She noted that; “The Prime Minister is not accustomed to dealing with outright challenges to his world view.  
Writing in the Times recently, Ms. Jenni Russell revealed that the Prime Minister “rarely encounters hostility – he cancelled his monthly press conferences years ago. And, PMQs (Prime Minister Questions Time in Parliament), is a weekly exception but that is a ritualised encounter where jeering, Jokes and mocking contempt are adequate substitutes for answering questions.” Those techniques are no preparation for live interviews (like the two recent political debates on TV). Sneer at an interviewer and the audience feels you are sneering at them.
And this may surprise many in Sierra Leone that David Cameron, the British Prime Minister’s, insulation from regular, fundamental criticism is partly a result of his position and partly a matter of choice, according to Ms. Russell of the London Times newspaper. “As Prime Minister, he is accustomed to deference and order. Just as the Queen must think the world smells of fresh paint, so the British Prime Minister moves in a bubble where he rarely encounters the real Britain. Just a respectful version of it.”
Hmmm. Can you imagine that in Sierra Leone, of course not, “we have a democracy,” according to those who know better than me.
Before I switched over to the Labour camp; just read this. According Ms. Jenni Russell, of the London Times newspaper, the British Prime Minister is “surrounded by people whose job is to say yes to whatever he wants.  He couldn’t take decision and keep to his policies if he had to argue their merits at every count.  But even conservatives who are sympathetic to him say he doesn’t seek out the persistent questioning that someone fighting for election needs. Policy details can be discussed but not their premise.”
“He (the Prime Minister), never reaches outside his own intellectual world to understand other’s views,” one of the Prime Minister’s closet adviser told Ms. Jenni Russell. Another says that every King needs a jester, licensed to protest and provoke (I have firsthand experience of this), but that no one has held that role since the Prime Minister’s iconoclastic adviser Steve Hilton left three years ago.
Expanding further of what she discovered about Mr. Cameron’s approach to governance, Ms. Russell pointed that a disillusion supporter says no one is fighting the group think that’s a natural tendency in Downing Street, the residence of the Prime Minister. She concluded that Tony Blair, the former British Labour Prime Minister, “for all his faults, expected close aides such as Sally Morgan and Alastair Campbell to tell him that some of his ideas were rubbish.’’
When it comes to the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, it doesn’t take much these days to stir up a debate over his competence and general persona- a word about the economy, a considerable number of businesses, big, medium and small have all stubbornly agreed with the Conservatives that the Labour leader and his party cannot be trusted with the economy and security/defense of the United Kingdom.
A few days ago, the debate about the Labour party leader’s plan to abolish “non-dom” flared up again, when the Sunday Times newspaper revealed that Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England will fall foul of the Labour party’s new tax law if they win the election on the 7th May. Canadian-born Mr. Carney, who was head hunted by the British Chancellor of Exchequer, is on an 874,000 British pounds sterling pay package; the non-domicile rule allows some wealthy UK residents to limit the tax they pay in the UK, on income earned outside Britain
Finance experts say that abolishing the status would not drive wealthy UK residents to tax havens. However, there are concerns that the move would make London a less attractive destination for the mobile wealthy and indeed, elite that could choose Switzerland or Dubai.
The non-dom announcement lit up the election campaign. Labour insists that abolishing non-dom status will raise “hundreds of millions” more in tax than will be lost if, as expected, some rich people leave Britain. The Conservatives have warned that the change will prompt an exodus and end up costing Britain money. However, the decision by the Labour leader to introduce a new tax law for the wealthy has thrown into focus a key change in Labour policy and exposed clear red line between Labour and the Conservatives.
The last Labour government under Tony Blair smiled and accommodated wealthy people and businesses. All attempts to change the law were blocked, now the new Labour leader, Ed Miliband is reversing Tony Blair’s strategy. One Journalist told me that “the labour leader thinks the markets don’t work and need reform.”
According to those close to the Labour leader, listed companies will be forced to appoint employee representatives to remuneration committees to curb “fat cat” boardroom salaries. And he will also give workers the chance to buy their company if it is being sold. Unlike the Conservatives, the Labour leader will not cut corporation tax to 20%. He will increase the top rate for high earners from 45pence to 50pence and introduce a “mansion tax” on those who own homes worth 2 million pounds sterling or more.
For more than 200 years, thousands of people have been able to live and be “resident” in the UK, even though they hold the passport and nationality of another country. They might, for example, be Nigerian, or Indian or Russian, But, while “resident” here, some are not “domicile” in the United Kingdom for tax purposes, and instead enjoy “a non-domicile” status. And this unusual tradition dates back as far as 1790 and William Pitt the Younger’s attempt to ensure that colonial settlers looking to make money in new, far-flung parts of the British Empire would be able to do so without having to pay taxes on their foreign income back in the United Kingdom.
Many social commentators and non-partisan British observers have welcomed the Labour party’s leader decision on the non-domicile law.  One of Britains eminent journalist and social commentator and former London Times Editor, Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian recently supported the Labour party moves saying that “taxation must be fair. Miliband is right and Osborne should follow suit in scrapping this favour to the rich. More next week. WOM © 2015
By Winston Ojukutu-Macauley Jnr
Friday April 17, 2015

Comments are closed.