Coffee House

François Hollande: Ed Miliband’s embarrassing friend

31 December 2012

Time was when Ed Miliband had plenty to say about François Hollande. When the new French President celebrated his victory in May, the Labour leader praised Hollande for his ‘determination to help create a Europe of growth and jobs, in a way that is responsible and sustainable’. He added:

‘This new leadership is sorely needed as Europe seeks to escape from austerity. And it matters to Britain.’

Then, Miliband was keen to work together with his new friend Hollande. Just a few months down the line, though, Labour has a bit less to say about how the French president is a shining example of the centre-left showing leadership and hope in Europe. First there was the noisy exodus of top earners from France ahead of the introduction of Hollande’s flagship 75 per cent tax. And then at the weekend France’s constitutional council rejected the tax. Ministers have indicated that it is unlikely they will produce an adjusted plan for the 75 per cent tax to comply with the council’s ruling before June or even September.

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The problems that the row over the fairness of the tax and the ruling itself raise for Hollande are political more than they are fiscal. The ruling has galvanised the opposition UMP, with Gilles Carrez, head of the National Assembly’s finance commission calling for Hollande to drop the tax altogether. He said he hoped that after reflection the government would decide not to go back to a rate that was so ‘absurd’ it didn’t exist anywhere else in Europe. Worse still for a tax that was intended to symbolise Hollande’s insistence that the rich would bear the greatest burden of austerity, the ruling caused tensions in his own party, with one MP, Jean-Michel Clément tweeting that it was ‘a catastrophe for our image’, adding ‘are we competent?’ The tax is now less a symbol of ‘responsible and sustainable’ fiscal policy than it is a symbol of the government’s competence or otherwise.

Guido reports today that Jean Michel Jarre has had meetings in Downing Street about moving to London to escape the tax, and David Cameron and Boris Johnson have spoken repeatedly about rolling out a ‘red carpet’ for those high earners who also plan a move to the capital.

Oddly enough, Miliband has had precious little to say about his chum recently: it’s difficult to imagine the Labour leader jumping to roll out a red carpet to Hollande should he visit London in the near future.. The problem, as Priti Patel predicted on Coffee House a few months ago, is that the 75 per cent tax row in France reminds those in Westminster of the row over the 50p tax rate. It makes it a lot easier for the Tories to argue in favour of a competitive tax regime when France is so kindly offering a demonstration of what happens when taxes become political symbols.

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  • sylvesterthecat

    I for one tend to look at the fun and games in France as what we could expect a few months into a Millipede government.

  • Andy

    Hollande is just another left-wing idiot like Milliband.

    I had a good friend, alas now dead, who lived in Italy. His father was killed in the Blitz and his Mother, who was American, went back to live in New York. Her father was an East Coast metal bashing millionaire and my friend ended up as the main beneficiary of a family trust. The income from that trust was taxed here at 98%, so he left the UK and lived the rest of his life in Florence. The reasons was he simply had no money because the 1945 Labour Government taxed him into poverty. That moral outrage was only abolished by Lady Thatcher.

    We should not be taxing people at 50% let alone 75%. And actually I think 40% is the maximum that the State should be allowed to confiscate from anyone. And I would actually go much further and introduce a flat tax set at 20%. In my experience most people who are so keen on punitive taxation do not pay it themselves.

    • HooksLaw

      You are correct and what goes with that is control of spending. But alas if the loony toons get their way we will see a return of a labour govt who will lose control of spending again and raise taxes again.

      Oh… and labour will ties us ever closer to the EU. Go figure…

  • Noa

    If you think Ed’s embarrassed how do you think Francois explains his weirdo, nerdy gurning Russo-British mate?

    • Sarge

      The big question is -which one is the ‘useful idiot’ ? Both by the look of it

  • Coffeehousewall

    I’d have said that Milliband remains Hollande’s embarrassing friend!

  • gladiolys

    Ooh, Jean Michel Jarre leaving the country. That’s seriously bad for an economy!

    • HooksLaw

      officially at any rate Jarre visited Downing street to meet with officials about ‘Tech City’, London’s ‘media and technology hub’.
      This at least proves that the initiative is worthwhile.

      of course the french can move their business interests here and still stay resident in france and only pay tax on their declared income (ie peanuts in the Jimmy Carr sense).

  • George_Arseborne

    Same as Osborne no longer quotes from OECD, IMF , S & P etc. What a stupid headline . Ed Milliband categorically rejected Hollandes 75% top rate tax . Being a Centre Left Party does nit mean agreeing on all policies. What a waste of space .

    • Procrustes

      Arsewit – so what what shining example of leadership is Hollande providing Ed with exactly? Absolute genius.

      How to fail to implement key policies? How to start a migration of potential tax revenues elsewhere? So this is pre-distribution at work I presume?

      I suggest Hollande is a bit further left of centre than you suggest. Like Ed, he pretended to be all things to all men until he got into power. Then he reverted to type.

      This may explain your feeble non-defence of his position

    • sylvesterthecat

      Whatever the reality, Milliband would have to reject it. He’s a politician.

  • AnotherDaveB

    “It makes it a lot easier for the Tories to argue in favour of a competitive tax regime”

    Yes, but they don’t. The Tories never seem to put the positive low tax, low regulation case.

    They accept the left’s arguments and talk about the ‘rich paying their fair share’, demonise companies and individuals who comply with existing UK law as ‘tax dodgers’. They describe reductions in public spending as regrettable rather than savings, and describe public spending as ‘investment’.

    • andagain

      If they made that argument it would not persuade anybody.

      If you are the party of group X, and you claim that making things easier for group X will also make things better for everyone else, it will persuade no one, because no one will trust you.

    • Davey12

      So true. They want to sound like nice people. They should be attacking them and explaning why low taxes are good for everyone.

      • Daniel Maris

        The top ten tax take countries (check it out on Wikipedia) include:

        Austria – often said to be the best run country in the world.

        Finland – best education results in the whole of Europe (and maybe the world)

        Norway – one of the most prosperous countries in the world with hardly any state debt.

        Denmark – the happiest country in the world.

        Sweden – so often taken as an example by Fraser Nelson of how to order your finances and run your education system.

        There are also Belgium and France. So Belgium’s “low tax” alternative to France can’t be that drastic for the average Joe.

        These countries are hardly examples of failing states. Their public health is much better than in the USA, the nearest thing we have to a free market economy on the planet.

        • Mike

          They have highly literate and numerate populations with a work ethic and look after their health. Most parents teach literacy and numeracy before children attend school. It is considered unacceptable to be un-employed if work is possible. If we have 20-30 % of the population who are best indifferent to education, happy to take welfare payments of one sort or another and do not look after their health. I doubt many Scandinavian teachers have the same problem faced by ours in many inner city schools or employers faced by unskilled, uneducated and unwilling to work which is a problem for many of our employers .

          • Daniel Maris

            I basically agree. But, perhaps, we have to ask ourselves how they got to that position. Remember, countries like Norway were once amongst the poorest in Europe.

            I don’t think we should be frightened of increasing the tax take if it helps us master our debt and build up institutions which support a move away from welfare dependency.

            • jack hughes

              Easier to pursue your socialist dreams when you discover massive oil fields just off your coast…..

            • FrenchNewsonlin

              More tax for the debt? Absolutely not. Prepare instead for Steve Keen’s debt jubilee and massive bank debt write-offs as economies are reset across the globe … or if you prefer wallow in Great Depression Mark ll until 2025.

            • Tom

              I basically agree. But, perhaps, we have to ask ourselves how they got
              to that position. Remember, countries like Norway were once amongst the
              poorest in Europe.


            • Mike

              DM, it is not just spending money, it is how money is spent. If one looks at the Olympic athletes, many top sports stars, classical musicians and ballet dancers is that from a very young age they were prepared to undergo intense, often painful training for long periods and accept withering criticism where they failed, from their coaches. Nichola Benedetti , the violinist has criticised children for not practising for long enough. Jessica Ennis was prepared to undergo intense and prolonged training but her sister wanted to sit down and chat to friends at the athletic stadium when they were young.Pendleton put her success down to high pain threshold, not her phsyique which was slighter than other women.

              The reality is that 20-30% of parents, children and teachers are not prepared to undergo intensense education. The success of most Indian and Far Eastern is that the parents, children and teachers are preapred to undergo rigorous education where mistakes are corrected. Prolonged periods of concentration requiring vast amounts of of patience are considered to be aspects of mental strength and are prized aspects of most eastern cultures. In many oritental cultures class sizes can be larger than in the UK but parents have to pay for education: children pay attention to the teacher and unruly behaviour is not accepted.

              One can take a horse to water but one cannot make it drink.

          • John Cronin

            “They have highly literate and numerate populations with a work ethic and look after their health.”

            But for how much longer, now the Moslems have discovered the joys of Scandinavian welfarism? As Milton Friedman said: “You cannot have a wlfare state and open borders.” Cos you end up becoming the welfare state for the entire planet.

        • michael

          Not one of these countries has a population any larger than London… erg…small is beautiful … ergo why DO we tie ourselves slavishly to the EU?

        • Davey12


          Sadly most northern European countries are nothing more than mini Saudi Arabia’s. Norway oil, Sweden wood and minerals, Finland the same.

          Imagine 5 million people and north sea oil. We could have a teacher for every kiddie.

          The most amazing thing I find is how a country that has no natural resources to rely on other than the imagination of its people can have the richest poor in the world. That is us..

          We trade and make billions allowing millions to sit in so called poverty.

          • Daniel Maris

            The richest poor? Care to back that up?

            • Davey12


              I guess my previous post got lost.

              Yep, the richest poor, wages for a Cuban doctor are about $400 per annum. Check out wages around the world you will see that the poor here are on a good number.

              Also tells us why manufacturing in the UK, and Europe, is a none starter. Our living standards will need to fall a lot further before we can compete with China, India… We also have no choice as our liberal elites have decided that globalisation, or the decimation of western industry, is a positive concept. They did not tell us who it is positive for.

              Everything you buy in this country I can get 90% cheaper. That is how pound land works. Buy stuff from china for 10p and sell it for a pound in the high street. Check out Primark.

        • Curnonsky

          The USA is hardly a free-market economy; try Hong Kong or Singapore. And if you’ve noticed, all your exemplary high-tax countries are inhabited by hard-working Scandinavians. Perhaps what you are actually lauding is Nordic culture?

        • HJ777

          Come on. Norway is extremely rich because of oil and gas.

          Most of these countries score extremely highly on measures of economic freedom, i.e. although the tax take is relatively high (although in most cases it has reduced in recent years because it was clearly hampering economic performance) the way it is used/distributed is subject to much more individual choice and competition.

          • Daniel Maris

            I was arguing with Davey’s proposition that ” low taxes are good for everyone”. He never said “high taxes are OK for Norwegians, but not us”.

            Are you saying that once we resume growth and finally end up with the equivalent of Norway’s per capita GDP then we will be able to have a higher tax take? Is that your argument. Or, to put it the other way round, are you saying that 30 years ago when Norway’s per capita GDP was no doubt lower than ours now is, they should have had a lower tax take to improve their society?

            I am not sure you have thought this through.

            In my view it is (in broad terms) not so much the tax take but what you do with it that is important. If we used it to reduce welfare dependency rather than increase it that would be a plus in my view.

            • Davey12

              Low taxes are good for everyone including the Norwegians. We have high taxes because we have lots of people working or supported by the state. This means we have to get the wealth from the wealth creating part of society through taxes. Even though Norway generates lots of money by selling raw materials it still needs high taxes to redistribute this wealth around because it has many people supported or working for the state.

              The idea is to always have a low tax take. The purpose of tax is to pay for things that are important for society. It is not to pay for things that the citizens can do for themselves. We need to have a line between what the state does and what citizens do, sadly the left will never stick to it so there is no point talking about it.

              As for welfare dependency, it can never be ended by socialists because socialists use welfare to bribe voters. If it ever ended then the voters will not vote for socialists and they will not get a go at the trough.

            • HJ777

              One of us hasn’t thought this through and, as usual, it’s you.

              I am saying that the tax take is not the only factor affecting GDP/GDP growth. This does not mean that high tax rates aren’t harmful to economic growth.

              There is a huge amount of empirical, as well as theoretical, evidence, that high tax rates harm GDP growth.

      • HWSHY

        false niceness

  • George Davidson

    state theft no longer seems like the solution to all a country’s woes … but can the left get its head round the fact their favourite solution to everything is un canard mort!

  • 2trueblue

    If the French go ahead with the tax London house prices will continue to grow as they flock here, and the French property market will begin to unravel.

    • Davey12

      We do not want them. All it will do is suck more immigrants in.

      From a political point to the average voter that Cameron is trying to woo, these people look greedy, selfish and unpatriotic. Hanging with these French exiles will just confirm these voters view about Tories and Cameron.

      They can settle here without Cameron meeting them. He can then use this ex-pat community of French as an example of what happens when you tax people to much, when the time is right.


      • 2trueblue

        I take it you think that 75% tax rate is a good thing?

        • Davey12

          75% is bad

          I guess you want more immigrants. More money means more immigrants will come.

          • HooksLaw

            You are thick. What we want are wealth generators.

        • Daniel Maris

          I think 75% is acceptable in a crisis and there is no doubt we are in a debt crisis. Also, one has to factor just how much the upper 10% of the population have increased their wealth over the last three decades – the answer is HUGELY, much, much more than all those below them. The explosion in CEO remuneration thanks to the corrupt system we have is continuing even now.

          • Davey12

            What will they do with the money..

            Yes,,,, Piss it up the wall.

            Nope.. we want poverty so we can understand what is important.

          • MrVeryAngry

            The crisis is high taxes high spending and high debt. Increasing any one of those three makes the crisis worse.

      • MrVeryAngry

        How greedy? They’ve earned their money why should they be deprived of it by coercion unfairly. Ditto selfish. Patriotic?! What, ally yourself to a country that steals from you?

      • Fergus Pickering

        Of course we want rich, talented French people. We could get shot of our home grown useless and unemployable. Send ’em to Romania or some similar hell hole.

      • HooksLaw

        You are an excellent example of a dipstick. Let the French pay their taxes to the UK exchequer – I am all in favour of that.

  • salieri

    “sorely” needed, surely. Like a hole in the head.

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