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Cable hits out at Osborne for seeking to turn UK into a "tax haven"

Business Secretary issues coded criticisim as Pfizer eyes UK tax advantages over AstraZeneca takeover. 

Vince Cable has just used his Commons statement on Pfizer's bid for AstraZeneca to take a characteristically unsubtle swipe at George Osborne. He told MPs: "We see the future of the UK as a knowledge economy, not a tax haven." One of the key attractions for the American Pfizer of taking over the British AstraZeneca is that, owing to Osborne, the UK's corporation tax rate is now just 21 per cent (and will to fall to 20 per cent in 2015), compared to 35 per cent in the US. A merger would allow the new company to be domiciled in the UK for tax purposes, while retaining its corporate HQ in the US. 

Cable also said that he was "open-minded" about the new public interest test proposed by Ed Miliband but warned that it would face significant EU hurdles. He said: 

The opposition calls for changes to the law, but we are operating within the framework that they introduced in 2002. They removed ministers from making decisions about mergers apart from in a few specified public interest areas. I notice that they chose not to reform the regime in response to the Cadbury’s/Kraft merger.

One of our options as the government would be to consider using our public interest test powers - or even expanding them. This would be a serious step and not one that should be taken lightly. I am open-minded about it, but should stress that we are operating within serious European legal constraints.

Throughout his statement, Cable used the plural "we", but the fact that Andrew Lansley was the only senior Tory on the frontbench, with not one Conservative business minister present, only encouraged the impression that the coalition is divided over the deal. One shadow cabinet minister told me yesterday: "He's been sidelined on it by the Treasury and No. 10". 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images/Christopher Furlong
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A dozen defeated parliamentary candidates back Caroline Flint for deputy

Supporters of all the leadership candidates have rallied around Caroline Flint's bid to be deputy leader.

Twelve former parliamentary candidates have backed Caroline Flint's bid to become deputy leader in an open letter to the New Statesman. Dubbing the Don Valley MP a "fantastic campaigner", they explain that why despite backing different candidates for the leadership, they "are united in supporting Caroline Flint to be Labour's next deputy leader", who they describe as a "brilliant communicator and creative policy maker". 

Flint welcomed the endorsement, saying: "our candidates know better than most what it takes to win the sort of seats Labour must gain in order to win a general election, so I'm delighted to have their support.". She urged Labour to rebuild "not by lookin to the past, but by learning from the past", saying that "we must rediscover Labour's voice, especially in communities wher we do not have a Labour MP:".

The Flint campaign will hope that the endorsement provides a boost as the campaign enters its final days.

The full letter is below:

There is no route to Downing Street that does not run through the seats we fought for Labour at the General Election.

"We need a new leadership team that can win back Labour's lost voters.

Although we are backing different candidates to be Leader, we are united in supporting Caroline Flint to be Labour's next deputy leader.

Not only is Caroline a fantastic campaigner, who toured the country supporting Labour's candidates, she's also a brilliant communicator and creative policy maker, which is exactly what we need in our next deputy leader.

If Labour is to win the next election, it is vital that we pick a leadership team that doesn't just appeal to Labour Party members, but is capable of winning the General Election. Caroline Flint is our best hope of beating the Tories.

We urge Labour Party members and supporters to unite behind Caroline Flint and begin the process of rebuilding to win in 2020.

Jessica Asato (Norwich North), Will Straw (Rossendale and Darween), Nick Bent (Warrington South), Mike Le Surf (South Basildon and East Thurrock), Tris Osborne (Chatham and Aylesford), Victoria Groulef (Reading West), Jamie Hanley (Pudsey), Kevin McKeever (Northampton South), Joy Squires (Worcester), Paul Clark (Gillingham and Rainham), Patrick Hall (Bedford) and Mary Wimbury (Aberconwy)

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.