Matthew Taylor

Sunday political interviews round-up: Theresa May says Conservatives will not raise VAT

Sunday political interviews round-up: Theresa May says Conservatives will not raise VAT
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Theresa May - Conservatives will not raise VAT

Touring both the BBC and ITV studios today, Theresa May tried her best to avoid giving specific answers about the Conservatives tax policies after the election. However, during an interview with Robert Peston, the Prime Minister appeared to disown David Cameron's 'triple lock' and make a commitment that a Conservative government would not raise the level of VAT above 20% over the next Parliament:

Peston: Given what you say your record as a party is on taxes, do you need to repeat David Cameron's triple lock - no rise in VAT, no rise in National Insurance, no rise in income tax - do you need to repeat that?

May: Well, I'm clear that we have no plans to raise the level of tax.

Peston: What does the level mean? I'm not sure what that means.

May: In relation to specific taxes, we won't be increasing VAT, but what I do want to ensure is that we are able to have the strong...

Peston: You definitely won't raise VAT? That's a 100% commitment.

May: ...But what I want to do is to ensure that when we do look more widely at the tax system, that what we say on the tax system, we're absolutely clear we can deliver on it for people. And also as I say, I want to see us able to reduce taxes on working families and that can only be done with strong and stable leadership. It can only be done with a strong and stable government building that stronger economy.

Peston: But it does sound to me like what really matters to you, apart from VAT, is the overall burden of taxation rather than micro managing at this stage, individual tax rates.

May: I think it's important that we look at that overall burden of taxation. As I say, my desire, my instinct, and what I absolutely want to do is to be able to reduce taxes on working families. But we are only able to do any of this if we can build that stronger economy, and that's why it's important to have that strong and stable government that can deliver on that strong economy. I think Jeremy Corbyn's economic policies are nonsensical, I think they just don't add up.

She also defended her government's record on taxation, stating:

'What we've done by raising the threshold of the personal allowance is of course taken 4 million people out of paying income tax altogether. So, 4 million people who were on the very lowest earnings not paying income tax any longer. And the changes we've made mean that a basic rate tax payer is about £1,000 a year better off, as a result of those changes... If you look at the percentage of tax that's being paid by the very richest, the top 1% of people are actually paying a higher percentage of tax... they're paying a higher percentage of the burden than they did in any year under the Labour government.'

John McDonnell - Labour will end zero hours contracts

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell also made an appearance on Peston's show, where he set out Labour's vision for the economy after the election. In particular, McDonnell pledged to outlaw zero hours contracts, a policy also closely associated with Ed Miliband in 2015:

McDonnell: We're going to end zero hours contracts, we're going to introduce what they call the New Zealand model, where you can be assured of the hours you're going to work, and the reason for that is -  I just give examples from my own constituency of families that don't know what hours they're going to work that week, what incomes they'll have, can't tell their kids whether or not they can afford  that new coat next week or whether they can go on holiday next year. We're trying to give them security, and do you know, it's not asking the Earth and interestingly enough you know, on this particular issue companies like McDonalds now are beginning to move...

Peston: Now there are some people in Britain, who like the flexibility of not being tied to a formal contract. Are you going to say that they simply can't have - let's just say they want zero hours contracts - are you saying they simply can't have them?

McDonnell: If you look at the various pieces of research on this, most people want to ensure that they have the hours guaranteed. And you can negotiate then with your employer any additional hours and you can come to a reasonable agreement. There'll always be some who need special preferences obviously, but we still want to be sure that people have guaranteed hours and they're negotiated properly and wages match those hours as well. It's not asking for the Earth you know, and the way it's balanced at the moment is that people can't tell what hours they're working, don't know what income's coming in, they're falling back on debt and in some instances this growth in dependence on food banks in, what, the sixth richest country in the world.

He went to attack the government by declaring that 'We need to have a fair taxation system and there's no doubt about that. The issue for us is that... this government has made the choice to give away tax giveaways to corporations and the rich. We would not make those choices.'

Tim Farron - Theresa May is heading for a 'colossal coronation'

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron appeared on the Andrew Marr show and told Marr, in no uncertain terms, that Theresa May is heading for a 'colossal coronation' after the 8th of June and that the real question is 'will she be properly opposed?' Farron ruled out any sort of coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour in the unlikely event of a hung Parliament, arguing that:

TF: We all know it's the truth, the Prime Minister is heading for a colossal coronation on the 8th June... so let's not pretend there's going to be any hung Parliament...

AM: A colossal coronation?

TF: That's how it looks to me, and she expects the British people to turn up in their Sunday best and wave the flag. That is not how a democracy works and we are determined to turn the coronation she expects into a contest that Britain desperately needs...

Marr: You sound to me that at the beginning of this campaign you have in effect,  given up. It's all Theresa May's, we might as well walk away and pick up our business afterwards.

TF: We're the only people not walking away... Britain desperately needs a strong decent opposition. For the sake of democracy - you don't need to agree with me on everything to agree that Britain needs a strong opposition, and the Liberal Democrats are determined to provide it.

He continued: 'I think people around the country are beginning to realise that a Conservative majority is not in question, but a Conservative landslide means that they will take you for granted wherever you live.'

When challenged by Marr that his ambition to supplant Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition was a 'complete fantasy' that was without historical parallel, Farron responded:

'These are time when politics in the Western hemisphere at least, has never been more unpredictable... If you cannot be ambitious at this point to allow those millions of people who are appalled by the direction the Prime Minister is taking us in... If you want to end the calamity of hard Brexit, you have one option.'

However, he also described himself as 'a bit of a Eurosceptic', stating that he is someone 'who challenges people in power', but that 'Britain is better off in the European Union'.

Emily Thornberry - 'I don't think Trident is a top priority'

Interviewed on Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry appeared to contradict official Labour party policy on Trident while discussing the potential threat from Russia. Thornberry signalled that she had made peace with the will of the party, but that personally she was much closer to the leader's views than those of the PLP:

Thornberry: I think that the party has decided that we continue to renew Trident and the decision has been made, and generally the public seems to be in favour of us having a nuclear deterrent.

Ridge: What's your view though?

Thornberry: I think that we need to look at 21st century threats and I don't think that Trident is a top priority for me. I think that the biggest threat from Russia is things like cyber attacks. I mean I was saying this a year ago. You know, actually the cyber capability of Russia is in terms of 21st century threats a much more immediate problem for us and the way in which they try to undermine democracy in the West, through their propaganda, through funding all sorts of organisations... This is the modern stuff.

Ridge: So you personally disagree then, with the party policy on Trident?

Thornberry: I'm not getting involved in any more fights about this. Party policy is party policy. My view is that we should not take our eye off the main game, which is that the real threat from Russia is actually much more modern, much more subtle, much more nuanced, and real now.

Salmond - This election is about backing Holyrood, not independence

And finally, appearing on the Sunday Politics, Former First Minister Alex Salmond argued that there was no difference between him and Nicola Sturgeon on whether this general election will be fought on the issue of independence, clarifying (or arguably contradicting) his previous comments on the issue. Andrew Neil put the question directly to him:

Neil: Is this general election about independence as you say it is, or not about independence as Mrs Sturgeon says it is?

Salmond: I've said exactly the same as Nicola Sturgeon on that. The issue of independence will be decided in a national referendum of the Scottish people. The mandate for that referendum was gained in last year's Scottish elections. What this election is about is the right of the Scottish Parliament to exercise that mandate and also providing a real opposition to this Tory government, and of course allowing the Scottish Parliament to resist austerity and some of the public expenditure cutbacks that you've been talking about. That is what this election is about - backing our Scottish Parliament.