I mentioned that few had put the new Labour case for Alistair’s budget than John Reid. Meanwhile, for those who follow these things, here’s a spokesman for Tony Blair, refuting today’s Telegraph story: “Tony Blair has made no comment on the Budget. No-one has been authorised to speak on his behalf. Tony Blair continues to be fully supportive of Gordon Brown and the Labour Government.”
Click below for a transcript of John Reid’s interview with Simon Mayo…
BBC Radio 5 Live, Wednesday 22 April 2009 15.25, Simon Mayo and John Reid
Simon Mayo… I know you’re on a tight schedule, Mr Reid, so while you’re with us, your reaction to what appears to be the scrapping of a manifesto commitment not to change the… top rate of tax.
John Reid: Well, look, if you’re asking me, you know, do I want to increase tax for anyone, the answer’s no, obviously. Can I defy the laws of gravity? No, I can’t. I think people know we’re in a hugely difficult circumstance, no one wants to be here, when I say no one, no one in the world wants to be here. But given that we are here, there’s a number of things we’ve got to do. The first is we’ve got to make sure that during this difficult period, we maintain investment, spending and protection of the most vulnerable. Secondly, arising from that, if we’re doing that, we have to borrow certainly in the short term. Thirdly, if we’re borrowing, we have to send a signal to everyone out there that this is temporary and that we’re going to get back on track, which means laying out our plans for maintaining a higher level of taxation to bring in more income to pay off the borrowing and to cut expenditure other than at the front line and to protect the most vulnerable. When you do that, if you’re going to increase taxation, you have to do it fairly. That’s what we’ve always said from the beginning of this Labour Government…
SM: But it’s a promise, it’s a manifesto commitment.
JR: Yes and it was a manifesto commitment that applied to all normal circumstances. But no one could have foreseen this and we’re increasing taxation and at a time that we’re laying out plans to do that, I think the country expects that it’s done in a fair way because that was always the two elements of New Labour were to try and protect a dynamic economy but to have social justice and that’s why, alongside what we’ve done today and the taxation increases, we’ve tried to make sure that everyone sees that those who are earning a bit more than everyone else are paying a little bit more, while we protect the young people who are unemployed, the long term unemployed, the savers – by increasing the ISA limit – the old age pensioners, by making sure that the tax threshold is increased. Now it’s an attempt, would I like to start from somewhere else? Of course I would. Do…you know, do we want to be in these circumstances, not any more than else in the world. But in these circumstances, we have to try and be responsible and we have to try and be sensible. That’s what we’ve done and all I would say to you is I look around and I don’t see any alternative proposals from anyone and I think to be opposing what we are doing for the sake of opposing it, without suggesting another way out of this that protects the most vulnerable, is truly irresponsible