‘I want the richest to pay more in tax – and under this government they are,’ David Cameron, PMQs, 29.01.14
Chloe Smith started this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions with a loosener that even a no.11 would have thrashed over the boundary. If only there’d been a few more bowled like this in the recent Ashes series. Did the PM agree that it was good news that the UK economy is growing at its fastest rate since 2007 and isn’t that be good for our children? I think you can you can guess his answer. However he went further. Not only was it good for our children, but also our grandchildren! A good start, which Milliband allowed to continue when he rose to cheers and brought up the issue of Syrian refugees. Would the PM act with the utmost urgency?
This is a fairly simple thing to agree to. The PM did so, the answer allowing him to list the government’s Syrian achievements already – £600 million in humanitarian aid, clean water supplies, medicine and food for 188000 people. Not going too well for Labour then, allowing the Tories to rattle off their own brilliance.
Milliband’s second question aimed to be more cutting. ‘Who said this just before the election’, he asked, and you knew it was going to be a quote from the PM himself. As indeed it was, about the rich paying their share, everyone being in it together and the 50p tax rate having to stay. Cameron took the opportunity to point out that the richest were paying more in tax, bringing to mind the Laffer curve and its insistence that with tax revenues equal to zero when tax rate is 0% and also when the tax rate is 100% there is a position somewhere between the two where tax revenues are maximised. Maybe that position is under 50p – but then we all know how accurate economists are. Nevertheless Cameron took the opportunity to paint Labour as an ‘anti-business anti-jobs, anti-growth, party’. Not surprisingly the Tories loved it.
‘Does he rule out cutting the top rate further, to 40p?’ Milliband asked, obviously not a believer in the Laffer curve and its potential to bring higher total tax yields at lower tax rates. Cameron sidestepped the question, flicking through his papers and saying ‘While we’re in the business of who has said interesting things in recent days…’ He found what he was looking for but was interrupted by baying Labour MPs.
‘Mr Robertson! Mr Robertson! Calm yourself man!’ shouted the speaker. ‘The lion must get back in its den!’
‘Who in the last 48 hours said this?’ Cameron continued quoting the shadow chancellor claiming the deficit, the national debt and the level of public spending were not an issue going into the crisis. Ed Balls vigorously nodded, which I suppose is all he could, but it let the PM make the well-received observation that ‘When our children in future turn to the dictionary and look up the definition of denial it will be right there. Balls, Ed.’
‘And the Chancellor just keep quiet for a second,’ Milliband demanded, as he asked his 40p question again. Osborne looked affronted at the very suggestion. The PM bounced to his feet, but had to sit down as Milliband’s question continued. He tried to stand again, but still the question went on.
‘Calm down,’ said Milliband.
‘There’s so much good news I can’t wait to get up and tell it,’ said Cameron, the two adversaries looking at each other like a couple of schoolboy debaters who are actually the best of friends. ‘Our priority is to cut taxes for the lowest paid in our country,’ he repeated, avoiding the question again. and instead listing reactions to Milliband’s 50p tax comments.
Back in some wonderful, forgotten time did politicians actually answer questions? It must have been shocking to hear.