I’m a big fan of Vince Cable and unashamedly always have been. Nothing would have pleased me more if he were to have been chancellor but in a Coalition that was never going to happen.
So forgive me for indulging myself in enjoying what was an excellent performance today in the House of Commons, especially when taking on the ever fading Ed Balls over yesterdays budget. Now sure, there are elements of the budget that I don’t agree with but who agrees with every single point? Still, I’ll get to that in a minute.
The thing to remember here is that Labour have very very short memories. They also know how to play the part of the wounded opposition very well indeed. Continual whining with no real policy to oppose with seems to be the regular order of the day coupled with pie in the sky ideas that are in the main unfunded and generally pulled from cloud cuckoo land (or would result in such catastrophic borrowing that would see us looking like Greece in 6 months time if implemented).
Vince’s response to the Labour and media led so called ‘Granny Tax’ explained in clear terms just how alarmist both groups have become;
I find it quite extraordinary to hear the shadow Chancellor expressing such alarm about the impact of the Budget on pensioners. I do not know whether he has looked at the scorecard, but it is clear. In 2012-13, the effect of the increase in the basic state pension and the pension credit minimum income guarantee will be to transfer £1.75 billion to pensioners. The impact of the changes on age-related allowances is £360 million—one fifth of the additional funding going to pensioners as a consequence of this Budget. When we look at the pensioner population, we of course see big differences. There are 5 million pensioners who do not pay tax, many of whom are poor, and who are not, of course, affected by the changes at all. There is a small group of people—frankly, my contemporaries—who have high retirement incomes and considerable asset wealth, and it is right in principle that they should pay a bit more.
1-0 to Vince against the now red face Ed Balls. But it didn’t end there. Vince quite rightly reminded Balls that the increase in state pensions under the coalition has been greater than any made under Labour
Let us just remind ourselves what is happening. We have an increase of £5.30 in the basic state pension for a single person. On top of the increase last year, we are talking about a £10 increase in the basic state pension, as a result of the protections that this Government have introduced.
Labour have very short memories about the tax hikes they inflicted on people in this country and how they failed pensioners for years. Lets remind them how fuel bills rose under Labour, how taxes rose under Labour, how food prices rose and social care failed them. All under a Labour administration that just kept throwing money about willy nilly thinking that that was the answer to all of lives problems.
Then there is the debacle of the 50p tax rate. Now I am a defender of this tax rate much to the annoyance of some, on the moral grounds that the rich really do need to pay their share and in many cases don’t. But, as Vince points out, if it costs us money to implement (because people are finding even more ways to get out of paying it) then there is an argument for it to go. (I don’t agree it should but there you go). Anyway, Labour’s hysterical screeching about the 50p tax rate has made me more annoyed than anything else to be frank.
Why? Because having spent years and years saying that it was the wrong thing to do, when they knew they were going to lose the election, what did they do? Thats right, they brought in the 50p tax rate with the sole intention of trying to win votes from working class and middle class voters. Well they failed and Vince made that point far better than I could here.
Let me turn to these millionaires. I agree with the Chancellor that the decision to cut the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p was economically the rational thing to do. I want to focus the debate not on symbols but on substance. I share the emotional reaction of the many people who are disgusted to hear pampered financiers whinging about their taxes. On an emotional level, nobody can sympathise with that. However, we have to deal with the practical realities that were burned on my consciousness as a result of sitting in my place on the Opposition Benches for 13 years, exchanging views on the top rate of tax with successive Labour Ministers from Blair to Brown to Balls. Year after year, they would tell the Liberal Democrats that it was economically stupid to raise the top rate of tax above 40%. That was their message, year after year. Then, a few weeks before the end of their Government—I think it was 57 days—they introduced the 50p rate in order to create a political dividing line. That decision had nothing whatever to do with economics. The point that they had been making over all those years was that raising the top rate in that way would raise relatively little revenue.
So this evening I raise my glass to Vince Cable, the man, the myth, the legend. Reminding Labour where they failed and continue to do fail.