STEPHEN GLOVER: Corbyn’s got his sights set on your home and garden

STEPHEN GLOVER: Comrade Corbyn’s got his sights set on your home and garden

There are, I suppose, still a few people who think Jeremy Corbyn is a well-meaning old chap who simply wants to help the poor, and doesn’t really intend any harm to anybody.

Possibly there are even one or two trusting souls who believe the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, when he says it is only the wealthy who will be asked to ‘pay a bit more’ to fund the stupendous spending splurge that would follow Labour’s election.

But such people, if they exist, can no longer maintain their misplaced faith in the essential benevolence of the Corbynistas after the publication of a new report called Land For The Many, which was commissioned by Labour to address ‘the problems and injustices of British society’. Unsurprisingly, the party hierarchy has ‘welcomed’ it.

Will voters finally wake up to Jerremy Corbyn or are they too busy fretting about Brexit to notice the looming danger?

Much of Labour’s coyness about the appropriation of wealth has been ripped away. It is as clear as it can be that those who have most to fear from a Corbyn government are not super-rich ‘fat cats’ (many of whom would move their wealth off-shore), but millions of middle-class people.

Will voters finally wake up? Or are they too busy fretting about Brexit to notice the looming danger which makes the prospect of a No Deal Brexit look almost comically innocuous by comparison?

No one can say we weren’t warned. Nobody should express surprise if, under the Corbynistas, house prices crash. Swingeing new property taxes, compulsory purchase orders and mandatory attendance at public planning meetings — the evidence of a possibly impending catastrophe is there.

At the heart of Land For The Many is the old communist revolutionary belief that a small number of capitalist sharks have snaffled all the land, and that as much as possible, if not all, should be returned to the people — which, of course, means the State, as the Soviet Union’s tragic history attests.

One of its authors, journalist George Monbiot, got aerated on this theme in a newspaper article yesterday. He claimed the reason why houses are so expensive is that land values have soared. He had a rant against major landowners, who he alleged do not pay their fair share of inheritance tax.

Monbiot, it should be noted, has separately argued that much agricultural land should be ‘rewilded’. If he had his way, I expect there would be wolves and bears roaming the South Downs, and we would probably all be munching lentils and drinking carrot juice.

In fact, despite Monbiot’s broadsides, it is not the big landowners who have most to fear from the recommendations in this report. It is homeowners who should be more worried.

Council tax would be scrapped and replaced with a ‘progressive property tax’, payable by property owners rather than tenants, and based on ‘regularly updated’ property values. There would be a ‘progressively higher rate of taxation’ for each of the top four property bands by value.

One of the report’s authors, journalist George Monbiot, claimed the reason why houses are so expensive is that land values have soared.

Since tax liability would be assessed on the basis of land value, those with larger gardens would almost certainly be especially penalised. This really is a mean-minded measure, since millions of people take pride in their gardens, which they do not regard as a source of wealth.

Indeed, many people with large gardens are not remotely rich — while some very wealthy people do not bother with gardens at all, especially in London. No doubt new homes would be built with even smaller gardens so as to reduce their tax liability.

I doubt there has been such an ill-conceived tax since the Window Tax was introduced in the late 17th century, which raised revenue on the basis of the number of windows in a property. Some got around this by blocking them up. It won’t be so easy with gardens. One way or another, those with relatively modest homes and not especially large gardens would find themselves paying much higher property taxes.

The report also proposes, in a characteristically petty way, that single occupants such as widows would no longer receive the 25 per cent discount they currently enjoy.

The new property tax would be set nationally rather than locally, which would lead to jobsworths from Whitehall descending with clipboards and tape-measures, enforcing regulations devised by envious Labour apparatchiks.

Once you have escaped their clutches, you would inevitably be summoned to a compulsory planning meeting at the town hall to hear about the latest proposed confiscation of unused land by the comrades to erect new (and presumably gardenless) houses.

Here is my question: Just how would fleecing ordinary families with ordinary homes, and certainly not extraordinary gardens, in any way ameliorate the undoubted problem of too few affordable homes being built in this country? It won’t, of course, and I don’t believe that is Labour’s aim.

If it were, the report’s authors would have considered the impact of uncontrolled immigration on housing.

According to the think-tank MigrationWatch, immigration may account for close to half of all new housing demand.

But the Corbynistas are not interested in that. What they care about is developing a narrative in which wicked landowners are seen as inflating the value of an asset they will not part with except on the most exorbitant terms.

The truth is, though, that Labour’s main prospective victims are middle-class homeowners rather than landowners with vast acreages. So John McDonnell’s falsehood that it is only the wealthy who will be asked to ‘pay a bit more’ risks being comprehensively exposed. But why should we be surprised?

Labour has already announced it would scrap Tory plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million by 2021. Instead, it would reduce it from £850,000 to £650,000. This would slash the amount the middle classes could pass tax-free to their children. The super-rich, of course, with their expensive accountants and offshore trusts, can usually find ways of avoiding inheritance tax altogether.

Then there is Labour’s plan to hike Corporation Tax paid by companies. It would like us to imagine that it is only the ‘fat cats’ who would have to tighten their belts, but such an increase would inevitably limit business profitability and employment opportunities.

Even before the publication of Land For The Many, the non-partisan Institute for Fiscal Studies reckoned that Corbyn’s policies would result in the biggest tax burden since 1949. I don’t go back that far, but I do recall the baleful effects of Labour’s confiscatory tax policies in the Sixties and Seventies.

It would be worse this time, if Labour gets in. Much worse. Corbyn and McDonnell are in the business of taking wealth away and depriving people.

Despite what they may claim, the super-rich are not their primary intended victims and could largely escape. Their main target is the ordinary middle classes.

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