Labour's 50p tax rate gets them out of a short-term hole, but is a risky long term strategy

You have to admire Labour's fighting spirit.

Its leaders ought to be in a tough spot right now. They have spent the last three years arguing that the Government is on the wrong economic course and, far from flat-lining, our economy is now recovering very strongly.

So you'd expect them to be on the back foot, even pinned to the canvas.

Instead, they have re-embraced the 50p tax rate and are punching away at the Tories weak spot (the sense many people have that they are not sufficiently committed to making sure the proceeds of economic recovery are fairly shared out to all of us) like there is no tomorrow.

Ed Miliband speaking in the Commons today. Credit: PA Wire

There is no doubt Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are riding a populist wave. The polls tell us so, but listen to any phone in or debate (or spend five minutes on Twitter) and you cannot avoid the conclusion that there is a great deal of resentment out there, still, and plenty of support for this measure.

But there are a lot of Blairites in the party (well, there are fewer than there used to be, but they are still there) who fear that people will cheer this idea right up to polling day, but decide in the end to vote for the party with the 'serious' economic policy.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls (left) and Labour party leader Ed Miliband. Credit: PA Wire

Ed Miliband and his advisers argue in private - and indeed in public - that the mood of the country has changed and people have lost confidence in the traditional trickle down theory of modern economics.

They think the public wants tougher, more muscular intervention in the mechanics of capitalism.

But it does beg a lot of questions; what is the point of a tax that the IFS tells us raises virtually no money at all? Do we really want a top rate of tax that high forever? Doesn't it send out a bit of a signal to international investors? Since we know that seriously rich people can avoid it, isn't there a better way to soak the wealthy? Has President Hollande's attempt to soak the rich in France worked (er, no; the French economy seems to be seriously in the tank at the moment)?

Labour thinks the public wants tougher, more muscular intervention in the mechanics of capitalism. Credit: PA Wire

But the most tricky potential difficulty of all is that this does seem to be the Labour economic strategy.

Popular as this specific measure might be, where is the evidence that we are inclined to vote for a high tax party? When did we last do so (not at the last election, that's for sure, when it was a key part of their offering)?

It is all too easy for the Tories to consistently ask questions and make claims and hints now about what other taxes Labour might raise to deal with the deficit.

It certainly gets the two Eds out of a short-term hole, but as a long term strategy, it seems rather risky to me.