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Byers: what was he thinking of?

August 26th, 2006


One of the bigger political stories in last Sunday’s press was Blairite former cabinet minister Stephen Byers‘s call in the Sunday Telegraph for Labour to abolish inheritance tax as “a penalty for hard work, thrift and enterprise”.

Perhaps predictably, this didn’t go down well with Brownites; the Guardian reported Alastair Darling and other allies of the Chancellor as “stamping on” the idea, before, after or perhaps simultaneous with giving it a “blistering riposte”. In fact, almost no one at all in the Labour party seems to have much time for the idea.

So what was the thinking behind the article? It’s hardly advanced the cause of any Blairite contender for the leadership. Perhaps it was intended to scare Labour MPs representing middle-class marginals (many of the seats they won in 1997, for example) of Brown’s supposed lack of appeal for their constituents. But the Brownite quoted in the Guardian seems to have it about right: “I don’t think Stephen Byers actually believes a word of this nonsense. He’s probably just trying to get a bit of attention or stir up some division in the party, but even the most hardcore Blairite MPs think he’s lost the plot this time.”

The betting markets have paid little attention, with Brown at 0.46/1 to be the next Labour leader.

It would be genuinely interesting to hear contributors’ angles or knowledge on this. All are welcome to comment, and for our readers in SW1, there’s no need to use your real name…

Philip Grant
Guest editor

Mike Smithson returns on 10th September.






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