Tuesday, 6 March 2012

A Downton Economy: Why we should subsidise great houses not tax them.



A Stately Home Economy

'Vince' Cable has upset many this week by suggesting that in place of a fifty pence top rate tax, the 'Liberal Democrats' would be favourably disposed towards the idea of a 'Mansion Tax' instead. Of course, one's immediate suspicion is that this is yet another slightly disingenuous attempt by our increasingly mendacious coalition 'partners' to throw a tiger among the starlings by sowing seeds of innuendo and envy among the electorate. The veiled implication clearly is that those living in a two million pound home are most probably 'wealthy' and therefore more likely to vote Conservative. Any subsequent dismissal of the idea can then be attacked by Vince and his friends on the sneering basis that 'the Tories are against taxation of large homes because they live in them'. All very Daily Mirror.

However, let us for the moment give Mr Cable the benefit of the doubt and assume that his motives are honourable and that his purpose is fair. A mansion tax may well raise the £1.7 billion in revenue that analysts predict, but it would also directly hit hard working families already struggling under the burden of large leaking rooves, wings in desperate need of refurbishment and the bills associated with the tending of the large gardens, follies and box hedge mazes that are invariably part and parcel of these dwellings. There is a widespread misconception that because one lives in a big house one must ipso facto be 'wealthy'. This is of course poppycock. Many of the very poorest people of my acquaintance live in some of the very biggest homes. The upkeep of these piles, well documented by Noel Coward as early as 1933, is immense and every last penny is routinely hurled at them - but though the Van Dykes frequently have to go and the Bechstein Grand is more often than not 'pawned', the good people who have acquired these wonderful buildings strive to keep them standing.

In many respects this is a public service. A selfless act of financial martyrdom, which generally results in offspring being sent to second eleven public schools or the number and quality of domestic staff being reduced to the bare minimum.

It has long been my thesis that the answer to most of our current problems can be resolved by doing the exact opposite of whatever it is that the Liberal Democrats are proposing. On this basis, perhaps rather than taxing the owners of homes worth two million pounds and upwards, we should be giving them money instead. In so doing we would create a thriving 'Downton Economy'. Large homes were built to be staffed. The number of domestics needed to run a medium sized (fourteen bedroom) Great House in the early twentieth century was anything between ten and thirty servants, which in turn provided a good employment opportunity for many. Sadly the rising costs of staff, coupled with the invidious growth of 'socialism' spelt an end to these employment prospects and 'service' today no long affords the cachet of respectability that it once had.

It is a modest proposal perhaps, but instead of sending our young jobless to work for little or nothing at 'Tesco' or 'Aldi' could we not provide them with employment in our larger houses? The taxpayer could dispense some sort of financial incentive to the landowners and indeed a thriving 'stately home sector' could be established leading to a boom not only in the servant and service industries but also in the education of these listless young people. Scullery maids need 'training' as much as any car mechanic or pastry chef and perhaps instead of wasting years studying 'nail technology' at 'Lewisham College' young women might learn something useful, such as how to most efficiently polish a candelabra, starch a collar or clean out a fireplace.

It has long been my impression that Liberal Democrats are driven primarily by envy. They remind one of the Ronnie Barker character in the old That Was The Week That Was sketch, caught in an unenviable position that is neither looking up nor looking down. In all matters pertaining to these yellow perils one is certainly best off listening politely - and then looking away.

14 comments:

  1. Must be a spoof article, a mansion tax is an excellent idea to get more out of income tax
    Or has this guy's family and friends got expensive houses . .
    Vested interest?

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    1. How refreshing to see a Tory MP in touch with the real world.

      Who will look after the impoverished in their £2 million + mansions?

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  2. I will plagiarise Dominic Lawson when, in a Sunday Times column, he described a recently-resigned FibDem Chris Huhne as 'preternaturally rebarbative'. For that is what FibDems are. Almost to a man. Preternaturally rebarbative. Given a 'go' with the levers of power, they are lurching furiously to the left, aiming to squeeze the rich 'till the pips squeak'. Yet not all those who happen to inhabit £ 2 million + houses are 'rich'. Many are retirees on fixed incomes who will be punished for being hard-working, successful and thrifty.

    FibDems - the scourge of success.

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  3. I agree absolutely Mr McGeddon.

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  4. I have mixed reactions to this blog. I was not aware that you tweeted or blogged, so this is my first comment. As a voter who is often on your side with regards to local issues (your debate in the Keynsham Legion was very good), tone and subtext are everything and I feel that it isn't wise to only mention women in a domestic context. A young man can just as easily serve food or polish as a woman, and a woman just as easily repair a broken down car or run a stately home - it's all in the training.

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    1. yes, sadly mr rees-mogg works for a barbarically male-dominated parliament. from a swedish perspective, this in itself is very offensive, that the british people are content with oppressing women. so thank you for calling this out. i see jake rees mogg as a great place to start the equality revolution in britain that happened in the 1980s in norway.
      its a wonder england is so slow. is it the heroin or the port? i'm all for zatzi.

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  5. Surely even from a 'left wing' perspective must oppose a 'mansion tax' as it will mean people (often elderly) and who often have no major source of income would have to sell their houses. This both disproportionately affects London and South-East, the elderly as well as penalizing those who have bought properties and saved them from wrack and ruin (especially as mentioned above) for the nation. In reality most people who own houses aren't all that wealthy. This is removes any incentive to renovate period properties and I sense, the politics of envy is what really motivates the Liberal Democrats.

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    1. No it will not, they pay up on death

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  6. My grateful thanks for all your thoughtful comments.

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  7. must be a spoof MP? re: "Must be a spoof article"

    i just wonder if i could have private lessons on how to be a scullery maid from his lordship, and who qualifies for such slavery.

    are you accepting indentured servant positions from the american colonies?
    if so, id love a spot in the rees-mogg manor.
    i promise i wont mention the G4S torture at heathrow, mubenga's death, or the arms deals to india.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Censorship,now why is that not a surprise . ..

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  9. My apologies. I started to reply before realising that your comment was listing dangerously under a hundredweight of sarcasm.

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