inequality‘Career opportunities, the ones that never knock 
Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock 
Career opportunity, the ones that never knock.’ 

In the editorial to ‘Red or Blue? Starmer Clearly Doesn’t Know’, I talked about opportunities, and the gift of recognising them. Kier Starmer is now in that position; he has the opportunity to win a clear majority, and to lead a transformative government. 

For the last 18-months Starmer has enjoyed the luxury of a large lead in the polls. This has allowed him to avoid difficult question about his leadership and the party’s direction. In reality he has been lucky, he won on a left-wing ticket which he has subsequently discarded whilst avoiding criticism for dong so. He has been the beneficiary of the Tories’ comprehensive self-immolation, Partygate, Liz Truss’s economic Armageddon, to the cost-of-living crisis appear to have gifted him the next general election. 

However, a succession of U-turns, perhaps some bad judgement, but moreover a feeling that Starmer doesn’t really know what he stands for, are now being reflected in the electorates opinions. The latest poll from Ipsos show the Labour lead narrowing: 

Labour 49% (+8 pts), Conservatives 27% (+3), Liberal Democrats 7% (-6), Green 7% (-2), Reform UK 4% (-3), Other 5% (-1). 

It is also worth noting that since this poll was conducted we have had the green policy U-turn and the latest antisemitism scandal. 

‘a feeling that Starmer doesn’t really know what he stands for’

Really this election should be a walkover for Labour. The Tories are a tired, discredited, and out-of-touch party.  

Sunak is missing all of his supposed 5-targets, the economy is in recession, strikes are so commonplace they go unnoticed, and the majority are still getting poorer.  

This was summed-up by the results of a More in Common focus group found, as they interviewed 2019 Tory voters in Wellingborough. Five years after being mugged by Boris Johnson, they have wised-up, saying the PM was ‘financially on another planet‘ and ‘abandoning hard-working people‘. 

As they focus on paying their bills, it is likely that, as Sunak is paying an effective tax rate of  23% on his vast capital gains, that they are, percentage wise, paying more than him! If this was income and not gains income his tax bill would be about twice as much. 

Sunak told the Times he would, ‘I’ll ease tax to reward hard work’…..’my values, the values of my party … where hard work should be rewarded’ by cutting taxes ‘so when [people] are working hard they get to enjoy more of the rewards for themselves and their families‘.  

Those skivers who are unable to work because of sickness didn’t fare so well: ‘We’re reforming the work capability assessment to make sure everyone who can work, does work. Work gives you purpose, work gives you fulfilment.’ 

Reading this, all I could think of was, ‘Arbeit macht frei(1). 

‘Reading this, all I could think of was, ‘Arbeit macht frei(1)’

As there is always much eulogising of Thatcher and her tax cutting chancellor, Nigel Lawson, I was most amused to read it was his 1988 budget that equalised capital gains tax (‘CGT’) and income tax. Lawson rightly said: ‘There is little economic difference between income and capital gains.’  

To my mind this is another free hit for Labour, how many of their voters would be impacted? Despite this, I find myself yet again disappointed by the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, who said she has no plans to do that. Perhaps it will be a ‘surprise’ announcement in her first budget, enabling her to catch ‘hot money’ before it flees offshore. 

Research from the Intergenerational Foundation thinktank highlights how the combined effect of income tax and national insurance payments means that people in employment pay much higher rates of tax than those who benefit from lower CGT rates on property and shares income.  

For example, it is mainly older people who generate an income from property and shares. A person receiving £60,000 a year in the form of capital gains or dividends pays less tax than someone aged 16 to 64 in a job earning £35,000. 

Earned income, in such cases, is taxed two to four times more heavily than unearned income,’ said the foundation, an independent charity that funds research into issues affecting young people. 

Polls last autumn across the political spectrum found that 61% supported reforming CGT. 

Since 1988, capital gains have risen 16x from <£5bn a year to an estimated £80bn in the financial year 2020-21, but the amount of tax raised from capital gains has only risen 3x times to C. £15bn. 

‘A person receiving £60,000 a year in the form of capital gains or dividends pays less tax than someone aged 16 to 64 in a job earning £35,000’

The report went on saying; ‘The wealthy obtain two main advantages from the current system not available to most of the population: first, a large lump of tax-exempt capital gains; secondly, a maximum tax of 20%, which is less than half the top rate of income tax’. 

‘Those who can manipulate the tax system in their favour tend to be those with high incomes or high levels of wealth, leaving a larger tax burden on younger people and those on lower incomes, further perpetuating inequalities between and within generations‘. 

There appears to be some discrepancy as to how much revenue equalising the two taxes would realise, but its reported at between £8-10bn. Which would go some way to filling the Jeremy Hunts legacy £20bn in cuts.  

Reforming CGT simply closes a tax loophole, it isn’t a new taxes. Despite this, I just cannot see a future Labour government undertaking reforms, they appear to be frightened of their own shadow, of being ‘Labour’. 

The slew of U-turns doesn’t show a party comfortable in its own skin. Perhaps their lead is too great, their fear of defeat too acute. In addition to U-turns we have own goals, this time caused by ‘antisemitic’ factionalism.   

‘The slew of U-turns doesn’t show a party comfortable in its own skin’

By way of background, this latest piece of factional infighting centres around Labour policy over the fighting in Gaza and a local meeting in Hyndburn. Those present included Azhar Ali, who has been suspended by the party and will, in effect now be an independent candidate in the Rochdale byelection. 

In a recording leaked to the Mail on Sunday, Ali was heard saying: ‘The Egyptians are saying that they warned Israel 10 days earlier … Americans warned them a day before [that] … there’s something happening. They deliberately took the security off, they allowed … that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want.’ 

The Mail, the Tories and even Stamer dismissed this as online conspiracy theory, which both the Mail and the government seems a bit rich as they are usually subsumed by them. 

Whilst some of these theories are beyond credibility, if you step-back and analyse the above perhaps this isn’t. Given the magnitude of the attacks, the fact this is localised, and the fact that Mossad (Israeli intelligence) is often cited as one of the highest rated intelligence services, does make me wonder. If you add to that Netanyahu’s low poll ratings and this does make some sense. No smoke without fire…… 

Graham Jones, the candidate for Hyndburn in Lancashire, became the a second suspension after it was revealed that he too repeated conspiracy theories about Israel’s attack on Gaza and complained about the influence of ‘certain Jewish quarters‘ in the media. 

So far as I can see, the real issue underlying any criticism of Israel is the immediate accusation of antisemitism, which inevitably leads to the holocaust. I have lived in north London all my life, I have had many Jewish neighbours, school friends, etc.. Many don’t agree with the all-out war being undertaken in Gaza. 

Our right-wing press and many of the Tories are so Islamophobic that they can’t see right from wrong. Looking dispassionately at the situation in Gaza I can’t see any good guys. 

Both sides have the same ambition, to be rid of each other. 

Palestinians say, ‘between the river and the sea, Palestine will be free‘, whilst the founding charter of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party declares: ‘Between the sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty.’ 

‘Both sides have the same ambition, to be rid of each other’

I am not alone in seeing no good guys; last November, A More in Common poll, reported that 16% of UK adults sympathised more with the Israelis, and 18% with the Palestinians. The remaining two-thirds, sympathised with neither side, or with both sides equally, or were unsure. 

Updated polling carried out in January, also from More in Common, has now confirmed that little has changed. The vast majority still refuse to take sides, they can see more than one viewpoint on the conflict. But a majority are also deeply concerned about rises in antisemitism and Islamophobia, and by fears that some may be using the war to stoke community conflict. 

The voters of Rochdale don’t get much luck. Standing for Reform is  Simon Danczuk who was suspended from the Labour party in 2015, when it was discovered he had been exchanging explicit text messages with a 17-year-old girl. 

Previously, the town had been represented for 20 years by the ‘larger than life’ Liberal politician Cyril Smith, ‘a hideous establishment paedophile who was never charged and whose crimes were ignored for decades by local police and council figures, among others.’ 

What should be exercising Starmer’s thinking is the importance of the Muslim vote to Labour. 

Whilst Jewish voters are more likely to agree with Starmer’s response, they are not a major part of the Labour electorate. Just 0.5% of the British public is Jewish. Only about a fifth of them vote Labour. In 2019, only 20% of Jews voted Labour, but about the same proportions voted Labour in 2010 (21%) and 2015 (22%), even when Labour’s own leader was Jewish. 

There are 14x as many Muslims in Britain as there are Jews, and they are strongly pro-Labour. In 2019, nearly 80% of Muslims voted for the party, a significant shift from 2010, when C.33% voted Labour. Then a majority voted LibDem, perhaps due to the Labour government’s invasion of Iraq and some of its anti-terrorism measures, which were unpopular in Muslim communities. Labour’s difficulties cost the party seats like Bradford East (Lib Dem) and Bethnal Green (Respect). 

‘There are 14x as many Muslims in Britain as there are Jews, and they are strongly pro-Labour’

As such Starmer has a dilemma; his policy is unequivocal support for Israel, a stance likely to offend a sizeable group of Labour voters. 

As an example, there are just 5- constituencies where Jews make up more than 10% of the population. The only one Labour currently holds is Bury South primarily because of a defector from the Tories. In contrast, there are 108 constituencies which are at least 10% Muslim. Labour won 83% of these seats at the last election. In the 40 constituencies where Muslims make up at least a fifth of the population, Labour won all but one. 

Data source: 

In summary, Starmer seems set on rooting out his party’s leftwingers.

When former leader Jeremy Corbyn was purged for his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation into antisemitism, Starmer’s allies boasted it was a ‘clause IV’ moment – that is, an excuse to define the party against the left.

That has nothing to do with antisemitism at all. Indeed, Martin Forde, who was commissioned by Starmer to investigate claims of racism and sexism in the party, said in reference to his report that one of his enduring concerns was the way in which antisemitism was weaponised ‘along factional lines‘.

Starmer’s delay in suspending Ali shows a clear factional double standard, which Forde warned the party must avoid to be taken seriously on anti-racism. 

Keir, life’s what you make it! 

Yesterday’s faded 
Nothing can change it 
Life’s what you make it’ 


  1. German phrase meaning ‘Work sets you free’ or ‘Work makes one free’, known for appearing on the entrance of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps 

Despite yesterday’s byelection drubbing, apparently everything’s fine, and the only party with a plan is on course to deliver real change now that we’ve turned a corner. Pardon?

Apart from the fact that we’re in recession, and everything’s broken. It’s not pretty, is it:

‘In what appeared to be a one-horse race Labour appears to be trying to finish second!

After last week’s U-turn on a green economy at the expense of fiscal prudence, the PM tax affairs highlight where Labour could still gain something.

Ther situation where a rentier receiving £60,000 a year in the form of capital gains or dividends pays less tax than someone aged 16 to 64 in a job earning £35,000, is intolerable. Or, it should be.

There are numerous loopholes that Labour can close whilst staying within their pledged tax rules. If they have the will.

Their latest U-turn was the by-election shambles and accusation of antisemitism of anyone not supporting Israel. Although this might become easier and ever President Biden seems to be losing patience with the Israeli PM Netanyahu

Aaron David Miller, a former state department analyst, negotiator and adviser on Middle East issues who has worked for several administrations, said of Netanyahu: “He’s almost desperate to keep his coalition and prioritises it above all else even at the risk of incurring suspicion, mistrust, the anger of an American president. We’re five months into this and you’ve yet to see the administration impose any cost or consequence.”

To date Biden has been unequivocal as ever in his support of Israel. However, as the overall Palestinian death toll from the war has surpassed 28,000, with Netanyahu still reluctant to pursue a long-term peace agreement (and rejected calls for Palestinian sovereignty), anti-war protests have erupted across the US and demonstrators have interrupted Biden’s speeches to brand him “Genocide Joe” – a potential disaster in an election year.

NBC News reported this week that Biden has been “venting his frustration” over his failure to persuade Israel to alter its military tactics, complaining that Netanyahu is “giving him hell” and impossible to deal with. The president makes contemptuous references to Netanyahu such as “this guy” and “asshole”, according to unnamed sources who spoke to NBC News, and has said Netanyahu wants the war to drag on so he can remain in power.

Recently, we have seen Biden issuing an executive order targeting Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have been attacking Palestinians. He has also been increasingly critical in public. Last week he described Israel’s military assault in Gaza as “over the top” and said he is seeking a “sustained pause in the fighting” to help ailing Palestinian civilians and negotiate the release of Israeli hostages – though this is still far short of the ceasefire calls that progressives are demanding.

The president told Netanyahu in a 45-minute phone call on Sunday that Israel should not go ahead with a military operation in the densely populated Gaza border town of Rafah without a “credible” plan to protect civilians. More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people have fled to Rafah to escape fighting in other areas.

If Netanyahu ignores him again and presses ahead, Biden could signal his displeasure by slowing or restricting weapons sales to Israel, changing course at the UN by throwing America’s weight behind a ceasefire resolution or coming out aggressively for Palestinian statehood.

Returning to the domestic scene, you can see how desperate the Tory right are when they start calling for the return of disgraced PM, Boris Johnson. As bizarre as it sounds it wouldn’t surprise me. Johnson is a proven vote winner, I suspect that he would give Starmer more of a run for his money than Rishi.

Lyrically, we dedicate this week to Kier Starmer, starting with the Clash and “Career Opportunities’ ‘, and play out with “Life’s What You Make It” by Talk, Talk. Enjoy!



Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

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