Labour on Gateshead Council decided at the last Council meeting to move a motion calling for a financial transaction tax. It wasn't directly relevant to Gateshead and I suspect that some of the motivation for bringing it forward was more to do with profile raising in the Labour group (as it was with the other motions debated at the same meeting) rather than actually achieving any change in tax policy. We have picked up rumours of mutterings about the Labour group leadership. We hear of certain individuals who would be interested in filling the shoes of the Council Leader, were he to be accidentally run over by a vote of no confidence by the Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Socialist Revolution. But more about that on another day.
Mover of the motion was Cllr Liz Twist. Given that Labour in Gateshead blame the Lib Dems in government for every economic problem, especially the ones that started with them, it was refreshing to hear Cllr Twist blame instead the banks for the current problems. But then she started heaping praise on George Soros, the speculator who sparked Britain's collapse out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992, and who made a fortune out of the UK's troubles. Cllr Twist was lavish with her praise for Soros and his support for a financial transactions tax.
Cllr Twist was an interesting choice to be Labour's self appointed expert on international finance. Her job in the office of David Anderson MP presumably gives her a great insight into the workings of the City and the activities of financiers. To be fair to Cllr Twist, I didn’t have a problem with what she said until she started praising Soros. And then it was downhill. Out popped the usual attacks on the Coalition. Apparently, the Lib Dems are standing in the way of a financial transactions tax.
Cllr Twist then resumed her seat and the debate began. Ron Beadle led for the Lib Dems, pointing out that she had failed to mention Gordon Brown (increasingly airbrushed out of history by Labour) had opposed such a tax when he was so brilliantly leading Labour and the economy to ruin. I couldn’t let the praise heaped on Soros go without comment. So in my contribution I remarked that I was surprised that Cllr Twist should want to use Soros as a hero of fair taxation, given how he had profited so greatly from his speculative activities. And Cllr Twist’s response to me in her summing up: “All I have to say to Cllr Wallace is that it takes one to know one.” There were stunned looks and sharp intakes of breath on our benches (and I suspect on Labour’s as well).
I took her to one side at the end of the meeting and asked her what she meant by her comment. She claimed it did not mean anything. I pointed out the difficulty of accepting that as the man she had likened me to was a speculator who benefitted from the misery of the nation and that she was describing me as the same as him. She continued to deny this and claimed what she said had come out wrong and she didn't mean anything by it.
Having given some thought to this, I have decided to take her at her word: what she says is meaningless. I shall remember that if she is ever to make another speech in Council.