The public – including most Tory voters – say drop the tax cut for millionaires. And it’s time Cameron to tell us if he is personally benefiting, says Michael Dugher
To say that David Cameron and George Osborne got a few things wrong in their Budget last March would be some understatement. Their infamous ‘omnishambles’ saw u-turns over the pasty tax, the churches tax, the charities tax and the petrol tax. It showed that far from ‘detoxifying’, the Conservative party had still not changed – it was still the same old Tories. And it finally laid to rest the myth of Tory competence.
But the biggest misjudgement in that Budget is something Cameron and Osborne have been determined not to u-turn on – the cut in the 50p top rate of tax for everyone earning over £150,000 a year. A tax cut that benefits just 1% of taxpayers, and is worth a whopping £40,000 every year to 8,000 millionaires.
In these tough times, a tax cut for millionaires is grotesquely unfair. Don’t forget, at the same time that people at the top were getting a tax rebate, millions of already squeezed families and hard-pressed pensioners are having to pay more under this Government. Families with children are losing an average of £511 this year, and the so-called “Granny Tax” means that 4 million pensioners will lose an average of £83 a year.
I remember sitting in the House of Commons listening to the George Osborne’s Budget. Responding to the Chancellor’s statement is just about the toughest thing any Leader of the Opposition has to do. But straight away Ed Miliband challenged Cameron and his ‘cabinet of millionaires’ to put their hands up if they were going to personally benefit from the cut in the 50p top rate of income tax. None of them put their hands up. None of them has come clean since.
Today’s ICM poll shows that the public hasn’t forgotten. By a huge margin – 71% to 17% – people think that the Government should abandon the 50p tax cut. By a margin almost as big – 64% to 22% – people think that David Cameron should make clear whether or not he is benefiting from his own tax cut. The majority in every region, every social class and every age group agree.
Even among people who voted Conservative at the last election, 65% thought the Prime Minister should cancel the top rate tax cut compared to just 26% of Tory voters who thought it should still go ahead. And by a majority of 46% to 40%, Conservative voters also thought Cameron should tell us if he is giving himself a tax cut.
That’s why I’ve written to David Cameron today to ask him to come clean. This isn’t about how rich he is. It’s about the decisions he takes. There did used to be a ‘One Nation’ tradition in parts of the Conservative party – we might not have always agreed with them, but there were people that came from different backgrounds who were trying to do the right thing and govern in the interests of the whole country. But Cameron’s tax cut for millionaires, while millions are paying more, is in a different tradition – one in which the Tory party stands up for a privileged few, rather than for the many.
If David Cameron wants to be a One Nation Prime Minister, he needs to behave like one. Cancelling his millionaire’s tax cut would be a good place to start. In recent years, trust in politics has been at an all time low. Cameron and his cabinet have a chance to finally be straight with the British people and come clean about whether they are personally benefiting from a tax cut that is so obviously unfair. After all, they were the ones who used to tell us that we were “all in this together”.
Michael Dugher is Labour MP for Barnsley East and shadow minister portfolio.