If we at the The Daily had our way, Stephen Byers would be put back in government. He was a pretty useless minister (except for his nationalising of railtrack without compensation – that was fun), but if he was in government again he wouldn’t be allowed write boring blather like this in today’s Guardian.
Defending yourself against someone as wishy washy as Polly Toynbee can’t be too hard, but Byers struggles. He rails against critics who say that only 6% of punters pay inheritance tax – “it is a shame that she failed to mention that this has trebled since 1997 when only 2% were liable” – and ends his piece with a classic of third way bluster. In a similar way to the evangelicals in the US who cite Jesus as a reason for their policies, Byers says: “Last year, social democratic Sweden abolished inheritance tax … They were right, and we should follow their lead.”
As Peter Gustavsson (citing him for the second time today) sets out in his blog, Byers is playing games. The Social Democrats scrapped IHT as part of a shifty deal with the Swedish CBI – like their messy “reforms” to bring in private schooling, and weaken pension protection for people around retirement age, this is an example of the Swedes not getting it right every time.
It might be worth Giddens, Byers et al finding a better reason for doing the wrong thing than “Sweden does it, so should we”.