Today has seen a huge, perhaps critical, mistake by the Ken Livingstone campaign in their response to the decision of the Mayor of London Boris Johnson to cut the Council Tax precept by 1%. They have attacked it superficially on the grounds of its modesty:
Labour's London Assembly budget spokesman, John Biggs, points out that Boris Johnson's decision to cut his share of the council tax will save the average Londoner 26p a month – enough to buy one onion.
The Mayor today announced that he will cut City Hall's share of council tax by £3.10 a year – 26p a month, 6p a week, or less than a penny a day.
On the same logic an earlier Labour press release made the point that a 1% rise would only cost 26p a month. We could all just cut back on the onions a bit and see our money go on reinstating a few Diversity Awareness Co-ordinators at City Hall.
I admit that the attack is implicit. Rather than say that a 1% cut or rise is too small, or shouldn't take place at all, we have the surreal response of measuring it in onions.
But even before Livingstone's manifesto is published we get a pretty good idea of the mentality behind it. The core socialist belief is that it is simply exasperating for us to be left to spend our own money how we choose – on things like onions – and that it would be so much more interesting and worthwhile for it to be spent for us by City Hall. So why not a 10% rise? Come on, only 10 onions a month?
Or a 152% rise? That was the rise Ken Livingstone brought in when he was Mayor last time increasing the precept from £123 to £309.82. That extra £186.82 a year taken from you. That's £15.57 a month – after all that's only enough to pay for 59 onions. All this on top of fare increases sharply higher than inflation. What did you want all those onions for anyway?
If Labour are saying that the Council Tax cut is too small and they would favour a bigger cut them let them make this clear – though such a stance would scarcely hold credibility coming from them. Instead their response shows an indifference to allowing us to choose how to spend our own money.