Harriet should know better. Loose lips sink ships – and election prospects

by Kevin Meagher

Is Harriet Harman the victim of an unfair Tory attack for seeming to suggesting that middle-income earners should pay more tax?

No, she is not. Neither, for that matter, has she been misquoted. She did say that middle-income earners should pay more tax. Labour’s deputy leader was guilty of a clumsy circumlocution, telling LBC radio on Monday that:

 “I think people on middle incomes should contribute more through their taxes”.

Let’s be clear, if she was making a general point about the desirability of a progressive taxation system, then fine. Indeed, she seems to have meant:

“I think people on middle incomes should contribute through their taxes”.

But that’s not what she said. She is guilty of committing an unforced error, using unforgivably loose terminology in a broadcast interview. For a senior frontbencher of her experience it was an amateurish thing to do and has played straight into the Tories’ gleeful hands.

Last night she wrote to David Cameron accusing him of telling fibs:

“You claimed at Prime Minister’s Questions today that ‘yesterday Labour announced – in an important announcement – that it is now their policy to put up taxes on middle income people’. This is not true. It is a lie.”

Tory party chairman Grant Schapps has also been busy. He has written to everyone he has an email address for, launching a poster campaign that the Tories must have been itching to release.

Tory poster

Labour people should take a long, hard look. This is what the next eight months will look like: A brutal, simple and unrelenting assault on Labour’s credibility on taxation and the economy.

For those of us old enough to remember 1992, this is exactly how the seeds of doubt among floating voters are sown. And that’s the point. All this is designed to make voters believe that for all its worthy sentiments and apparent kindliness, Labour can’t be trusted to run the economy and will make “people like you” pay.

A recent poll found 66 per cent of the public think the Tories are pro-business. Only 27 per cent of them say that of Labour. While the Tories now have a 15 point lead on the question of which party is best able to handle the economy.

So casually suggesting, even unwittingly, that Labour will put up taxes on middle-income earners is simply making the Tories’ argument for them. Harriet didn’t fall into a bear trap, she leapt into one. On such basic mistakes election campaigns are lost.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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16 Responses to “Harriet should know better. Loose lips sink ships – and election prospects”

  1. swatantra says:

    Anbsolutely disgrace for Cameron to take HHs words completely out of context.
    Not the way for PM to behave. Blatant electioneering in the Govts time.

  2. Stuart Bruce says:

    Labour’s defence of Harriet’s gaffe is disingenuous. The Tories are restoring to spin, our defence to spin should be the truth, not more spin which is what Labour is doing. A far better response from Harriet would simply be to apologise and admit she made a mistake.

  3. bob says:

    Ballcocks, she’s a loose lipped idiot, you give yourself as a hostage to fortune.

  4. John reid says:

    AT the 92 election we weren’t going to increase tax on middle income families, we said we weren’t going to raise the basic rate, but raise the higher rate from 40p to 50p, the Tories just made up in the 92 election, that we were going to put the basic rate up.

  5. Madasafish says:

    H Harman: the woman who claimed she was omitted from the choice of Deputy PM because G Brown was “sexist”..

    Given that politicians are judged on both what they say and do…seems that G Brown was correct in his decision and it was based not on “sexism” but ability…

  6. bob says:

    Labour only raised the top rate of tax in the final months of the Brown government, from 40 to 50%. It had been 40% for twelve and a half years of the labour administration, and now they whine and shout about ‘tax cuts for the rich’ mmm 10p tax rate come to mind instead of raising personal allowance as this government has done.

  7. Ex labour says:

    Harman is being disingenuous by writing to the PM. Anyone who has seen the PMQ’s footage can see her agreeing when Cameron made the statement. The best bit was Miliband facial expressions and gestures, they were an absolute picture. The man looks in physical pain. Have a look at Guido’s site to see it all its glory.

    This is of course the Harman who thought she should be deputy PM and it was her gender that was the barrier. Hmmmm….maybe it was perhaps something different?

    It does of course lay bare the inner thoughts of the Labour front bench for the public to see. Judging by the reactions of politico’s I talked to this morning (mainly Labour) they see it as the first nail in the electoral coffin.


    LOL !!! Righteous indignation of a true lefty caught out ….FFS there nothing like it !!

  8. John reid says:

    Ex labour, it may have been the best bit for you ,when miliband looked in in disgust, as Harman agreed, with the PM ,she had said, that they should be taxed more,

    But for me it was the moment I realised, that the 2020 election ,looks unwinnable too.

  9. Ex labour says:

    @John Reid

    You are correct John as I said even my Labour friends realised this was a pivotal moment. The Tories will roll this out again nearer the election and it’s back to Labours “tax bomb” all over again.

    The reality is that the middle income tax payer is actually the highest taxed sector in relative terms, so why on earth, even if you want to raise taxes, would you go after the “squeezed middle” yet again? I think it political suicide.

    Unfortunately people like Harman – rich girl playing working class – is one of many reasons I’m ex Labour.

  10. BenM says:

    The Tory tax lie died with Shapps getting his total mauling live on air from Jon Snow.

    The power of social media completely blunted the Tory lie. It was a dead story by the evening news.

    That’s why the Tories can’t win next year. Rightwing lying is going to get called out big time.

  11. Ex Labour says:


    If you think the public give a toss about what the Twatterti say then you are even more niaive than your regular posts suggest.

  12. Henrik says:

    In common with the rest of the country, it never occurred to me that Labour wouldn’t raise taxes if they won the next election – the Comrades have an insatiable appetite for others’ money.

    It would be relatively less painful, of course, if one had any confidence at all that Labour would then spend all that extra money to good purpose.

  13. steve says:

    “A brutal, simple and unrelenting assault on Labour’s credibility”

    Who would have thought it?!

    New Labour lost 5 million votes between ’97 and 2010. The trend looks set to continue.

    The Labour Party should have distanced itself from the dead hand of the Blairites when it had the chance in 2010.

    Labour lost 5 million votes be

  14. Tafia says:

    The Tory tax lie died with Shapps getting his total mauling live on air from Jon Snow.

    Most of the British public pay little attention to political news on the popular channels – Sky News, ITV and BBC1. Hardly any watch Channel 4 news or BBC2 Newsnight. Jon Snow giving someone a mauling lies somewhere between ‘Totally Irrelevant’ and ‘Who’s Jons Snow/Grant Shapps’.

    It’s the boters in the real world that watch Coronation St, Eastenders, Jeremy Kyle, Barclays Prem, Top Gear that decide who win elections, not political anorak nerds who watch C4 news or Newsnight. If it isn’t seen by the mainstream viewers then it never happened and has no impact.

  15. John Reid says:

    Steve, labour last 5.6m votes between 1951-1983′ 3 and a half million after 1979′ yet when Labour ls to those votes from 79-83 did those who lost labour those votes say we lost due too the 1983 manifesto,a no Tony Benn said we left as it wasnt left wing enough

    You also forget to point out that Niel Kinnock and a Blair both increased Labours vote by 5.2m from 1987-1997

    Saying Labour may not increase it’s vote next year is down to new Labour is daft, what happened To Eds comment I’m not a Blair at party conference and a Blairs name was booed, or the days of New Labour are over, or we’ve got our party back,

  16. Dave Roberts says:

    Worse than Dianne Abbott and that’s saying something.

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