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.

Getty
Show Hide image

Byron burgers and bacon sandwiches: can any politician get away with eating on camera?

Memo to aspirant world leaders: eating in public is a political minefield.

Miliband’s sandwich. Cameron’s hot dog. Osborne’s burger. The other Miliband’s banana. As well as excellent names for up-and-coming indie bands, these are just a few examples of now infamous food faux pas committed by British politicians.

During his entire mayoral campaign, Sadiq Khan refused to eat anything in public. When journalist Simon Hattenstone met him in his local curry house for the Guardian, the now-mayor didn’t eat a single bite despite “dish after dish” arriving at the table. Who can blame him? Though Ed Miliband had been pictured blunderingly eating a bacon sandwich an entire year earlier, the national furore around the incident had not yet died down. “He can make me look Clooneyesque or make me look like Ed eating a bacon sandwich,” Khan said of the photographer at the time.

Miliband’s bacon sandwich is now so infamous that I need offer no explanation for the event other than those words. There is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to the photograph of Ed, lips curled and eyes rolling, as he tucks into that fateful sarnie. Yet politicians frequently bite off more than they can chew – why did Ed’s mishap inspire multiple headlines and an entire front page of The Sun?

Via Getty

“The momentum got behind the bacon sandwich story because he was awkward, it showed him in a light which was true - he was an awkward candidate in that election,” says Paul Baines, a professor of political marketing at Cranfield University. “He didn’t come across right.”

The photograph of Miliband fit neatly within a pre-existing image of the politician – that he was bumbling, incompetent, and unable to take control. Similarly, when David Cameron was pictured eating a hot dog with a knife and fork months later, the story reinforced popular notions of him as a posh, out-of-touch, champagne-swilling old Etonian. Though Oxford-educated, two-kitchen Miliband is nearly as privileged as Cameron, and Brexit-inducing Dave equally as incompetent as Ed, the pictures would not gain the same popularity in reverse. There are many, many less-than-flattering pictures of Cameron eating, but they didn’t fit into a workable narrative.

Via Getty

No one, for example, focused on the price of Ed’s sandwich. Purchased at New Covenant Garden Market, it was undoubtedly more expensive than Greggs’ £1.75 bacon roll – but no one cared. When George Osborne was pictured eating an £8 Byron burger whilst cutting £11.5 million from the British budget, however, the picture spoke to many. The then-chancellor was forced to explain that “McDonalds doesn't deliver”, although, as it turned out, Byron didn’t either.

“The idea was to try and display him in a good light – here's a guy eating a burger just like everyone else. The only problem was it was a posh burger and of course he didn't look like everyone else because he was spending ten quid on a burger,” explains Baines.

But Dave, Ed, and George are just the latest in a long, long line of politicians who have been mocked for their eating habits. Across the ocean, Donald Trump has been lambasted for liking his steak well done, while in 1976, Gerald Ford was mocked after biting into the inedible corn husk of a tamale. Why then, do politicians not copy Khan, and avoid being pictured around food altogether?

Via Getty

“Food connects everybody, food is essentially a connection to culture and the 'every person',” explains Baines. “[Nigel] Farage's appearance in the pub has definitely had a positive impact on how he's perceived by a big chunk of the working class electorate which is an important, sizeable group.” Though Cameron, too, has been pictured with pints, his undeniably weird grasp on the glass make the pictures seem inauthentic, compared to Farage whose pints are clearly at home in his hands. In America, Joe Biden managed to capture the same authenticity with an ice-cream cone.

“I think when it comes across badly is when it comes across as inauthentic,” says Baines. “If I were advising, I certainly wouldn't advise Theresa May to be seen in the pub having a pint, that would not shine with her particular character or style. But could Tim Farron come across better in that way? Possibly but it does have to be authentic.”

Food, then, can instantly make a politician seem in or out of touch. This is especially true when food connects to national identity. Tony Blair, for example, publicly claimed his favourite dish was fish and chips despite earlier saying it was fettuccine with olive oil, sundried tomatoes and capers. In the 1980s, Lord Mandelson allegedly mistook mushy peas for guacamole, insulting us all. In the States, you’d be hard pressed to find a politician who hasn’t been pictured with a hot dog, and there are entire articles dedicated to US politicians who eat pizza with a knife and fork. Again, the food fits a narrative – politicians out of touch with the common person.  

Then again, sometimes, just sometimes, no narrative is needed. We’d advise any candidate who seriously wants a shot in the 2017 General Election to not, under any circumstances, be pictured casually feeding a Solero to an unidentified young woman. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496