In an interview with Channel 4 News, Ed Miliband said he would raise taxes to cut the deficit and introduce new laws to stop foreign workers from undercutting British employees. He denied that in his first speech as Labour leader, he had toughened his opposition to the Iraq war – and said people weren’t bothered if he was married to his partner.
“I would do more from taxation than Alistair proposed in his plan”
Mr Miliband was asked if would stick to former Chancellor Alistair Darling’s plan to reduce the deficit. This would involve halving the deficit over four years through a combination of spending reductions and tax increases (with two thirds of the deficit dealt with by spending reductions and a third by tax rises).
The Labour leader said he would be more reliant on tax increases than Mr Darling – and less reliant on spending cuts. He’s proposing that the new 50p top rate of tax on incomes above £150,000 is made permanent and would increase the bank levy and introduce a financial transactions tax.
In his interview with us, he wouldn’t be drawn on the exact ratio of spending cuts to tax rises he would like to see, so here’s a scenario envisaged by our economics editor Faisal Islam, with help from the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Were Ed Miliband to plump for a 60:40 ratio (with 60 per cent of the deficit dealt with by tax rises and 40 per cent by spending cuts), an additional £8bn would be raised by taxes, which would mean £8bn wouldn’t have to be lopped off spending.
” ….. make sure there are laws to stop agency workers being used to undercut people who are working alongside them”
This was Mr Miliband’s answer when he was asked what he would do to stop immigrants from eastern Europe from coming to this country and working for less than British workers.
But how practical is his suggestion? Not very, according to Jacqueline McGuigan, an emloyment specialist at TMP Solicitors in London.
She told FactCheck: “Agency workers tend to be poorly paid (women and minorities), so there could be indirect discrimination. I just don’t think it is achievable.
“I don’t think it has been properly thought out because there are so many protective employment laws – over 70 – so if you’re going to change pay, priority and workers, you have to think about all of this legislation to make sure you are not infringing other well-established employment protection laws.”
“I said that at many, many, many hustings …. that it was wrong”
Mr Miliband said in his speech that the Iraq war was “wrong” – and was asked if he had toughened his rhetoric on this issue.
On a BBC Radio 5 Labour leadership hustings on 29 July, he called the Iraq war “a mistake”, before turning the clock back to 2003, when the invasion took place and he wasn’t yet an MP.
He said: “I did tell people at the time that asked me that I was against the war”, adding: “We hitched our wagon to the US on foreign policy in a way that was a profound mistake.”
But his later voting record as an MP tells a slightly different story. If he was against the Iraq war why did he vote against an inquiry into the decision to invade in 2006, 2007 and 2008?
“We said in the past that we intended to get married. I actually think the British people are pretty relaxed about whether we’re married or whether we’re not married”
This was his response to a question about whether he intended to marry his pregnant partner Justine Thornton, the mother of his one-year-old son.
So how relaxed are the British people? According to a British Social Attitudes report, published in 2008,
two thirds of people think there’s little difference socially between being married and living together, only one in four believe married couples make better parents than unmarried ones, and half think weddings are more about celebration than life-long commitment.
We wait with bated breath to see where Mr Miliband goes on tax, but it’s clear that he wants a larger proportion of the deficit dealt with by taxation than Alistair Darling proposed.
Turning to foreign workers, he will need to tread carefully. As our employment specialist makes clear, there’s a danger of indirect discrimination.
On Iraq, we should give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s undoubtedly true that he made his opposition to the war a theme of his campaign, but his blunt use of the word “wrong” in his speech certainly seemed to add an extra dimension to his previous criticisms.
On the British people’s attitude to the fact he isn’t married, he’s on firm ground when he uses the word “relaxed”.