I watched Ed Miliband’s speech yesterday and, to give him his due, it’s one of the best speeches I’d heard him deliver. He was much more confident and positive than he has been in the past.
His delivery improved and some of his ideas sat quite comfortably with me – I certainly didn’t sit through the speech feeling nauseous like I inevitably will when Cameron makes his speech next week.
How could you possibly argue against us all being one nation? Those words, of course, have a particular resonance up here where we face a referendum which could split us in to two nations within the next 800 days or so. I’m not, by the way, impressed with Labour making out at their conference yesterday that they were the only ones who mattered in the fight against independence.
You don’t have to dig very far, though, to see the flaws. There’s not much in the way of concrete policy. It’s a candy floss speech that nobody could really object to.There are a few specifics that I take issue with, though. Miliband has a nerve if he thinks that we have forgotten what the last Labour Government did.
He slammed the cutting of the top tax rate and had a good go at Nick Clegg for agreeing to it:
How many of his other Cabinet colleagues have cheques in the post from the millionaire’s tax cut? And how can he justify this unfairness in Britain 2012.
So what did Nick Clegg have to say about this very issue last week at our Conference:
At the last budget, we made two big announcements: that we were spending three thousand million pounds increasing the tax-free allowance, and just fifty million pounds reducing the top rate of tax while recouping five times that amount in additional taxes on the wealthiest. I insisted on the first. I conceded the second. But I stand by the package as a whole. Why? Because as liberals, we want to see the tax on work reduced, the tax on unearned wealth increased, and the system as a whole tilted in favour of those on low and middle incomes. The budget delivered all three.
But let me make one thing clear: Now that we have brought the top rate of tax down to 45p – a level, let’s not forget, that is still higher than throughout Labour’s 13 years in office – there can be no question of reducing it further in this Parliament. All future cuts in personal taxation must pass one clear test: do they help people on low and middle incomes get by and get on? It’s as simple as that.
Who has been making the running on wealth taxes these last few weeks? Nick Clegg, not Ed Miliband.
Ed Miliband forgets that the Coalition put up Capital Gains Tax by 10% at the insistence of the Liberal Democrats. Under Labour, the wealthiest only paid 18%, a situation that brought about that example Nick used of a zillionaire banker paying a lower marginal rate of tax than his cleaner on the minimum wage. That’s the sort of tax system the Government of which Ed Miliband was a member presided over.
And, ok, we had to agree to a drop in the 45p rate, but what we got back was more in taxation on the wealthy and more enforcement work on them. But look what we got for it – by next April, each low income house will have had their tax bill cut by £445 a year by the Liberal Democrats.
And look at what this means for someone on the minimum wage, who handed more than a grand to Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown every year when they were in power.
And the Liberal Democrats intend to take that down to zero in the next Parliament.It’s good to see that Manchester residents and Labour Conference delegates are seeing this message on a poster van at the Labour Conference as Kat Dadswell tweeted earlier.
It’s a far cry from the 10p tax debacle under Labour.
Now, let’s look at what Ed said about the gap between rich and poor.
Those with the broadest shoulders will always bear the greatest burden. I would never cut taxes for millionaires and raise them on ordinary families. That is wrong, that is not being One Nation. And here is the other thing, I will never accept an economy where the gap between rich and poor just grows wider and wider. In One Nation, in my faith, inequality matters. It matters to our country.
If that broadest shoulders remark looks familiar, well, Nick Clegg says it all the time. In fact, almost a year ago, the Daily Fail reported on his plans for a “tax raid on the super rich.”
The next situation actually made me burst out laughing.
We need a One Nation economy and the first big mission of the next Labour government is to sort out our banks. Sort them out once and for all. Not just to prevent another crisis but to do what hasn’t been done in decades. Necessary to enable us to pay our way in the world. We need banks that serve the country not a country that serves its banks.
Ok, these are the people who for 13 years pretty much let the banks do what they like. They knighted Fred Goodwin. It’s this coalition, directed by Vince Cable, who will sort them out.
Mark Pack pointed out yesterday how Magpie Miliband claimed four new big ideas which are already being done by the Liberal Democrats in Government. They are: more house building, a business bank, more apprenticeships (up 60% since Labour’s last year) and separating retail and investment banking.
It is just two and a half years since Labour were last in power. Ed Miliband think we will have forgotten how they crashed the economy, how they taxed the poorest more and the wealthy less than the Liberal Democrats have assured in the Coalition. We’re elephants, Ed, not goldfish. We won’t forget.