Labour steps up its attack on the 50p tax cut

New figures show that 8,000 millionaires will gain an average of £107,500 from the abolition of the top tax rate.

One of Ed Miliband's favourite lines of attack against the coalition is that the abolition of the 50p tax rate will give a tax cut of at least £40,000 (£42,500, to be precise) to every person earning over a million pounds a year. The Labour leader says "at least" because many of the 8,000 people in question will, of course, receive far more. Today, at a joint Q&A with Ed Balls ahead of George Osborne's Autumn Statement, Miliband will reveal just how much more.

New figures released by Labour show that income millionaires (as opposed to those whose assets are worth at least a million, a distinction Miliband failed to make in his conference speech) will gain an average of £107,500 from the move. Miliband will say:

They don't understand that you build economic success not from wealth trickling down but by rewarding and supporting working people. Earlier this year I highlighted the millionaires’ tax cut. I said David Cameron would be giving a £40,000 tax cut to every person earning over a million pounds a year.

But new figures we are publishing today show it is even more than that. The Government is about to give an average of £107,500 each to 8,000 people earning over a million a year. Not £40,000. But £107,500. To 8,000 millionaires. David Cameron and George Osborne are giving them this money. But it’s coming from you. You are paying the price of their failure and them standing up for the wrong people.

The Labour leader rightly believes that the abolition of the 50p rate remains one of the government's weakest points. Between now and next April, when the tax cut is formally introduced, we can expect him to take every opportunity to remind the public just how much the richest will benefit from the move. Labour also plans to maintain the pressure on David Cameron to say whether he will gain from the abolition of the top rate. A private poll released by the party in October showed that 62 per cent of voters believe Cameron should "come clean and tell people honestly whether he is personally benefitting from this".

Ed Miliband will today give a Q&A with shadow chancellor Ed Balls ahead of George Osborne's Autumn Statement on 5 December. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.