On this morning’s Radio 4’s “Today” programme, George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, made it clear that the Conservatives would not repeal the proposed 50% income tax rate on top earners. His reason: they had to think of the “many not the few”.
Those who remember the mid-1990s will remember that the “many not the few” was one of the campaign mantras used by Tony Blair and the Labour Party in the run-up to the 1997 General Election to highlight the difference between Labour and the Conservatives. It is nice to hear that the political consensus has now shifted so much that George Osborne can repeat it with approval and with what was presumably (as you know you cannot see on the radio) a straight face.
But the point he seems to miss is that the whole Budget, which he was of course trying to rubbish comprehensively, was for the “many not the few”. Still one step at a time.
What will be really interesting is how the rest of the Conservative Party interprets it – will they be so happy with the “many not the few” line? Will Mayor Boris Johnson, for example, who was distinctly unchuffed with the idea of having to pay 45% tax on his newspaper earnings be happy with a Conservative Shadow Chancellor going along with the 50% top rate? We will see.