Ed Miliband is, for all his faults, fairly honest – as politicians go. So why did he tell an outright lie in his conference speech? Andrew Neil has just confronted Douglas Alexander on a claim that Miliband made last week. Here’s what was in the speech:-
Next April, David Cameron will be writing a cheque for £40,000 to each and every millionaire in Britain. And here’s the worst part. David Cameron isn’t just writing the cheques. He is receiving one. He’s going to be getting the millionaires’ tax cut.’
Now, there are 619,000 millionaires in Britain. To claim that “each and every” one of them will get a cheque is not an exaggeration, it is a lie. Even Alexander admitted that there are only 8,000 people who declare more than £1 million of earnings (and contribute vast amounts of tax) – they are the only group that will be better-off by £40k. And while there are 305,000 who earn more than £150,000 – so will be getting a tax cut – the average sum will be far less than £40k.
So how does Alexander trying to wriggle out of this? He tried to concoct a special definition of “millionaire”: someone who earns more than £1m. It’s worth listening to.
I suspect that neither Miliband or Alexander came up with this strategy – it sounds like an Ed Balls special. Politics is about making points as forcefully as you can, but the strange thing about Balls is that he just can’t help himself stretching the truth until the elastic snaps. He so loved the (false) idea of Cameron giving a tax cut to millionaires that he wants to say that it’s happening anyway. But Miliband and Alexander are, in my view, fairly honest people: it’s not in their instinct to lie. Alexander, a son of the Manse, was visibly uncomfortable defending this lie. Miliband is, by and large, regarded as honest – and that’s a reputation worth preserving. So he ought to never make this claim again.