Tuesday News Review

Miliband committed to 50p tax “for foreseeable future”

Alan Johnson had surprised colleagues by saying that, in five years’ time, Labour might not see the need for the higher rate introduced by Alistair Darling earlier this year. But the Labour leader had indicated, along with other candidates in the party’s summer leadership election, that the 50p rate was permanent. Mr Miliband said in the summer that the new level of tax should stay because it was “not just about reducing the deficit, it’s about fairness in society”. He added: “Let me say plainly: I would keep the top rate of income tax at 50p permanently.” Yesterday, Mr Miliband moved to restate his commitment to the higher rate. His spokesman said: “We remain committed to it for now and the foreseeable future. – The Telegraph

Ed Miliband has started to retreat from his totemic pledge to make “permanent” the 50p top rate of tax, under pressure from Alan Johnson, his shadow chancellor. The Labour leader’s promise to take half the earnings of richer individuals in tax was a key part of his pitch for the Labour leadership, helping him to win union support and pip his brother David to the top job. But on Monday Mr Miliband began the latest phase of his drive to take Labour towards the centre ground, dropping his earlier insistence that a 50p rate should be retained indefinitely. “We remain committed to it now and for the foreseeable future,” Mr Miliband’s spokesman said – a shift in position that brings him into line with the more moderate views of Mr Johnson. – The FT

Ed Miliband appears to have wavered on his commitment to retaining the 50p tax rate following signs of internal disagreement over the weekend. Alan Johnson admitted there was a difference of opinion on a graduate tax and the 50p top rate of tax between himself and Mr Miliband while talking to the BBC on Sunday. Mr Miliband came out in support of the graduate tax and retaining the 50p tax rate “permanently” during the election campaign. But Mr Johnson appeared to dismiss that over the weekend, saying the statements had come “in the cut and thrust” of the leadership contest. Today Mr Miliband’s spokesperson said of the 50p tax rate: “We remain committed to it for now and for the foreseeable future.” The downgrading of “permanently” to “for the foreseeable future” leaves the door open for Mr Miliband to back down from his support for the policy as he negotiates position statements with leading figures inside the party. – Politics.co.uk

Lib Dem panic over fees vote

If you listen, you can hear the squeals of agony among Liberal Democrats about the farrago they have contrived over the issue of tuition fees. First they were against any rise in fees. Then they said circumstances dictated a change of policy. Then it emerged that they had always planned to junk their opposition to a fees increase post-election. And now, those opposed to the various shenanigans appear to be gaining popularity within the party itself. Oh dear, what a mess. David Laws is one of the coolest customers the Lib Dems possess: a hard-headed negotiator during the coalition talks in May and, until he fell from grace over his expenses, the unflappable axeman at the Treasury. But even he is hyperventilating about the current predicament. Dear God, when will the vote on tuition fees occur, he inquired of a party official by email yesterday. But so worried was Laws that he accidentally copied the Guardian into his missive. “We really need to get it out of the way ASAP,” he said. “The sooner this is over the better!!!” Don’t panic. Count to 10. – The Guardian

Eric Joyce speaks out

Eric Joyce, a front bench spokesman in the shadow cabinet, spoke out after Phil Woolas, a Labour colleague, was found guilty of breaking electoral law for published lies about his election opponent. In a piece titled “Liar, know thyself” on the Labour Uncut website, he criticised members of the public who believed they lived “lives unmarred by a personal error of any significance”. Mr Joyce, a former soldier, wrote: “What if it were the case that our democratic system does not systematically send just the scum of the earth to Westminster. – The Telegraph

Mr Joyce said: ‘Here’s the truth. It’s hard to lie as a politician because everything we say is subject to enormous scrutiny. ‘But politicians know the lies a lot of people live and they pitch to you accordingly. ‘There’s a lot of lying going on, for sure. But [critics] might want to reflect on who is really doing the lying.’ The Falkirk MP said the middle classes ‘hunt for the best deal they can get for those they love’ and then ‘avert their eyes from the reality that if they win some others will lose’ and ‘put together ropey arguments whose main function is to mitigate their guilt’. – Daily Mail

Tom Harris hangs up his mouse

Blogging is a risky business for any MP*. There are some whose blogs would persuade one to cast a vote for almost any other candidate, regardless of party. But if I lived in Glasgow South I’d be quite happy to have Tom Harris as my MP. Hell, I might even vote for him despite disagreeing with him on many issues. Admittedly, since it’s a safe seat this is not such a sacrifice but I think electing good people to parliament is as important as the colour of the rosette they wear. So it’s disappointing, even a shame, that he’s decided to stop writing his blog. (At least for now.) He must be one of the few people to find blogging less fun in opposition than in power. Then again, freed from the burden of supporting the government in the division lobbies, Harris’s disappointment with the current Labour leadership has not been so very thinly veiled. It’s not hard to see how this could cause him problems, nor to imagine that his blog – and the attendent suspicion that he’s a dangerously independent thinker – could have played a part in his failure to win a place in the Shadow Cabinet or on the Labour frontbench. – The Spectator

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