Labor won three general elections because it captured high-income seats in London and southeast Britain that used to be solidly Conservative. But voters evidently don't want their high housing values taxed away at death.
Can we expect to see the tax issue revived in the United States? Possibly. The Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire in 2010, and the estate tax is scheduled to come back in full force in 2011, unless the Congress and president elected in 2008 take action. Democratic presidential candidates are calling for letting the tax cuts on high earners expire, and House Democrats last week beat back a proposal for a permanent repeal of the estate tax. So the issue may be squarely raised: If Democrats win, taxes on some voters (they will say a few, Republicans will say many) will go up.
Democrats starting with Bill Clinton have been carrying high-income suburban counties because of their stands on cultural issues. But with those issues less prominent -- you haven't heard presidential candidates of either party talk much about them this year -- taxes could go back into the spotlight.
A test case may come in the Massachusetts 5th District special election to be held next week. It's a high-income district last carried by Republicans in 1972 (when John Kerry was the Democratic nominee). Republican candidate Jim Ogonowoski, brother of one of the pilots killed on 9-11, has been campaigning against Congress, emphasizing taxes and immigration. Democrat Niki Tsongas, widow of the late senator, has been campaigning on a platform similar to those of most Democrats in 2006.
Both sides are now campaigning hard, as if they expect a close race. An upset win for the Republican or near-upset could be a sign that 2008 won't be a carbon copy of 2006.