15 April 2007

Parliamentary Selection For Brighton Pavilion- Questionnaire.

Dear All,

I have decided that the fairest way to decide who I should back for Labour candidate for Brighton Pavilion is to ask you all the same questions and make my choice on who gives the answers I like best.

If you give an answer I agree with - you get 3 points, an answer I disagree with - 1 point (for being honest) and a non answer gets 0 points (a particularly vacuous answer might get a point deducted).

1. Do you think faith schools should be encouraged? Yes or No?

2. Are you in favour of a more proportional electoral system for Westminster? Yes or No?

3. Should taxation be increased further to pay for better public services? Yes or No?

4. Do you agree that taxing higher earners more is the best way to reduce inequality? Yes or No?

5. Do you agree with the idea of a Citizen's Basic Income? (a universal payment regardless of employment status to cover basic living costs - food, shelter etc) Yes or No?

6. Are you in favour (in principle) of road pricing to reduce congestion? Yes or No?

7. Should we replace Trident? Yes or No?

8. Should we continue nuclear power generation? Yes or No?

Tie Break Questions (in no more than 50 words each):

What 3 main things can government do to improve the environment?

Opposition parties and the press are bound to criticise the All Women Shortlist process and label you as a 'blair babe' or as 'imposed by the leadership' against the local party's wishes. How would you answer this charge?

Cheers to all of you who take the time to reply to this by 14th May (which should be the date of the next Regency ward meeting). I hope I am not being too impertinent. Feel free to ignore the questions if you wish, but I will support and campaign for whoever scores the highest.

Yours sincerely

Neil Harding.


  1. 1-7 No.
    8 Yes.

    Tie break 1) Continue to make people think more about what they buy, what they drive, where and why they fly (although this is a bit of a bandwagon issue since aviation emissions account for only 5pc of the total). It is all right for people who drive big, dirty, thirsty cars to pay more.

    Tie break 2)I would say I was the nest candidate and Brighton Pavilion was damn lucky to have me. That'd get a headline.

  2. You scored 14 points.

    On the tie breaks I would give you another 2 points out of 6.

    Which gives you a grand total of 16 out of 30.

    Not bad considering you are a Tory. Hopefully the Labour candidates will do better but I think some of them will do much worse.

    Politicians unfortunately have to guard their answers, so I imagine a lot of them will refuse to answer yes or no to most questions.

    Out of interest my answers are;

    1. No
    2-6 Yes
    7 No
    8 Yes

    So we agree on 3 issues, not surprisingly you disagree with me on PR, road pricing and tax issues though you do think big car owners should pay more.

    As the Tories have now said they have an 'aspiration' to reduce inequality, if we are not going to redistribute through more progressive taxation and we are not going to increase payments to the low paid, how do you propose they should do this? Remember 'trickle down economics' failed!

  3. Just checked my emails - One candidate has scored 25 points, should be hard to beat that.

  4. Thanks Neil. I think your 25-point candidate is the winner.

    Never been a fan of trickle-down economics, and I agree that it doesn't work. I have a bit more faith in urban regeneration as a way of attracting businesses to run-down areas and reviving communities, although that only works if other circumstances are also in play. For example, it worked in Docklands and will work in east London because of the Olympics because it sucks money and people with money in from other areas. It hasn't worked terribly well around Salford, where the Quays area has been splendidly redeveloped but the neighbouring communities, Eccles, Langworthy and the like, are on their beam ends and actually seem to be getting worse. That's more to do with north-southism than anything else.

    How to redistribute wealth? Well, since income tax accounts for only 15pc of the Chancellor's receipts, raising the levels to the point where that form of taxation was redistributive would be political suicide. You have to do it through indirect taxation and "choice" taxation, using the money to fund public works. I choose to drive a 3 litre Volvo and accept that the comfort of doing so will cost me more in road tax and more at the pump. Despite opposing the principle of road pricing, I do occasionally pay the congestion charge, which has made town easier to drive in, and use the very fine M6 Toll (privately built, I might add). It is just that to charge people for moving around almost everywhere seems draconian and will, I am sure, be anything but tax neutral. Additionally, public transport in London is very good - it could never be as good elsewhere; the infrastructure costs would be too great.

    I'd like to see more money spent on supporting wealth creation, help for start-ups etc, and maybe, dare I say it, the reversal of Mr Brown's pensions raid of 1997, which would certainly redistribute wealth to a significant number of elderly people. That may turn out to be his greatest blunder and has probably cost him the next election (leadership or general).

    I suspect we disagree on very little. My biggest and constant gripe is the size of the state. I just don't think it is sustainable at the present level of growth, and nor should it be. States should be a safety net..it feels to me as though the one we're in - and it is still a very liberal and tolerant one - is all-embracing.

  5. Interesting Will Hutton article in the Guardian today on Brown's 'Pension raid'.

    Like Polly Toynbee he thinks the issue is much more complex - rising life expectancy, falling interest rates, accounting rule changes, contribution rates, dividend distribution policies have caused much more damage to pension deficits than Brown did. There would have been a collapse whatever Brown had done.

    Also economic growth and investment in capital and R&D were given a boost by the changes and I'm sure even Tories aren't against that.

    As for the advice given by officials, it varied, most advice was that there would be no problem. Anyway as Kenneth Clarke said, politicians are there to make decisions, they cannot always bow to civil servants. It is a ridiculous charge that the Tories and their press friends have dug up (using the freedom of information act that would never have been available under a Tory government) at the most apt moment to hurt Brown, ditto the gold sale.

    The biggest beneficiaries from share dividends are not those elederly who cannot afford their leccy bills, it is those who are already comfortably off with savings and property wealth etc. So you can hardly claim an egalitarian edge to this one. Though of course some Tories will try it.

    As for redistributing wealth - I think you should look into a citizen's income - a lot of right-wingers like Devil's Kitchen, like the idea. At the end of the day, there is a cost to wide inequality and not even Tories (I think) want to see people homeless and starving (Although under Thatcher and Major they did a good job of hiding this). With the poorest 50% owning only 7% of wealth, we certainly shouldn't try to widen inequality - which Tory proposals on marriage tax and income tax cuts would.

    Income tax may only raise a small percentage of total tax (thanks to Thatcher more than doubling VAT from 8% to 17.5%, extending it to utilities and making local taxes more regressive - poll tax/council tax replacing rates) - BUT it a small increase can drastically redistribute - it is still the most progressive tax we have because it is linked to earnings.

    You seem to be leaning towards green taxes (and they are fine as far as they go - but they seem more of a fund raiser than habit changer) and they are regressive not redistributive and that is their main problem. We can only move to green taxes if we compensate in other areas - i.e a citizen's income.

  6. Enjoyed the debate. Thank you.