A senior Conservative minister told a Liberal Democrat cabinet colleague: “You take care of the workers and we’ll take care of the bosses” in a private Whitehall meeting to discuss the Coalition Government’s priorities.
The controversial remark was revealed by Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in an interview with The Independent that exposes some of the behind the scenes tensions in the Coalition Government.
Mr Alexander said it showed David Cameron and George Osborne were guilty of “breath-taking hypocrisy” for trying to claim responsibility for raising the threshold at which people pay tax – while privately arguing for tax cuts for the better off.
“In March 2012 when the economy was still in the very early stages of recovery we wanted to do a very big increase in the personal allowance to put a lot of money back into folk’s pockets,” he said. “The Tories priority at the time was the top rate of tax.
“I remember one meeting with a group of senior Conservatives and one of them said ‘listen you take care of the workers and we’ll take care of the bosses’.
“That was said across the table in one of the meetings where we were discussing the forward policy of the Government. That really spelt out where their priorities lay.”
Mr Alexander did not reveal the identity of the Conservative who made the comments but The Independent understands that they were a senior Cabinet Minister involved in negotiating Government policy with the Lib Dems.
In pictures: Experts' predictions for the General Election - 04/04/15
In pictures: Experts' predictions for the General Election - 04/04/15
1/10 Andrew Hawkins (ComRes)
“My position has moved: no party can win a majority now. I have also shifted in favour of the Conservatives winning more seats than Labour. That, however, assumes that the current Tory momentum is maintained and that they don’t do anything daft or careless between now and polling day. But the underlying pattern is distinctly in their favour.” (In January he predicted Labour would be the largest party, possibly with a small majority.)
2/10 Joe Twyman (YouGov)
“Probably: a ‘well hung parliament’. Possibly: Conservatives winning most votes and seats, thanks, in part, to SNP gains at Labour’s expense. Speculation: Conservatives unable to form another coalition, not having enough seats with just the Lib Dems, but Labour better placed with SNP and Lib Dems – albeit informally.” (In January Twyman said: “Gun to my head? Labour minority government.”)
3/10 Ben Page (Ipsos MORI)
“Stuck in ‘too close to call’ mode still, made harder by the way votes translate into seats in Parliament. If the parties remain neck and neck, Labour might just end up with more seats, but not a majority. We still have weeks of campaign to go and no clear picture for the marginals, where the polling that is being done suggests a lot of local variations that have plenty of potential to surprise us in May.” (Last time Page said it was a “mug’s game” to make predictions four months before an election.)
4/10 Rick Nye (Populus)
“Since January, the Conservatives have clearly improved on the polls relative to Labour to the point where I’d expect the Conservatives to win the most seats as well as the most votes 7 May. What’s less clear is whether the Conservatives would be able to form a government. (In January Nye expected a hung parliament in which Labour would win most seats but not necessarily most votes.)
5/10 Nick Moon (GfK)
“Something would need to change dramatically for there to be any chance of a one-party majority government. My guess: the Tories will be largest party, but some way short of forming even a two-party coalition. A Labour minority government seems most likely, but I won’t be putting money on it.” (Prediction unchanged since January.)
6/10 Damian Lyons Lowe (Survation)
“On Survation’s public polling, Ed Miliband remains the person most likely to form the next government. However, he’s far from the workable majority figure required . Friday 8 May will remain a day of deals and discussions with other parties to form the next government.” (In January he expected Labour to be the largest party in a hung parliament, by 40-50 seats over the Conservatives.)
7/10 Michelle Harrison (TNS)
“It’s less a case of who wins but who can scrape over the line. Labour polls better on the NHS; the Tories poll better on the economy. Can any claim additional territory from the other over the remaining weeks? Probably not. But our polls show that the public thinks the Tories will be the largest party. In the absence of a firm lead, I’ll go with the wisdom of crowds.”
8/10 James Endersby (Opinium Research)
“Despite the recent weekly statistical ties, we’ve witnessed the faint whispers of movement in the air and a slow, unsteady and shaky sway towards the Tories. How this shift plays out over the coming weeks obviously depends on a huge number of factors. My call, if this holds fast and momentum gathers: Conservatives 288, Labour 267, SNP 45, Lib Dems 24, Plaid Cymru 3, Ukip 3, Greens 2.” (In January he put Labour on 320 seats.)
9/10 Martin Boon (ICM)
“I’m tempted to say: how should I know? I’m just a pollster. But I feel that Miliband may just have raised himself from the grave, so I’ll add a couple to where I had them before. Everyone else largely becalmed although, I see the Greens disappearing from view and Ukip sliding a touch. Tories 34 per cent, Lab 32 per cent, Lib Dems 14 per cent, Ukip 12 per cent. I don’t trust any academic model that translates vote shares into seats, so a seat projection from this is a pure and simple guess, which is Labour to be touching 300 seats with the Tories just behind.” (In January Boon predicted Labour on 290 seats.)
10/10 Lord Ashcroft (Lord Ashcroft Polls)
He refuses to make predictions. “My polls are snapshots, not predictions.”
Mr Alexander’s remarks come as Mr Osborne yesterday four times refused to rule out cutting the top rate of tax paid by people earning over £150,000 a year from the current rate of 45p to 40p in a pound if the Conservatives win the next election. Labour claimed that having already cut the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p in the last Parliament it was “now clear that if they win the election they'll do the same again”. A Conservative spokesman said the party’s priority was to raise the 40p threshold and the personal allowance and not to cut the 45p rate.
Today marks the start of the new financial year when the personal tax free allowance will rise to £10,600 – over £4,000 more than it was in 2010. The Lib Dems cite the rise as one of the party’s biggest achievements in power and have become increasingly angry at Conservative attempts to take credit for it.
In the interview Mr Alexander revealed that in private senior Tories had used the Lib Dems insistence on increasing the personal allowance as a bargaining chip to reduce taxes in other areas.
“We put increases in the personal allowance on the front page of our manifesto in 2010. The Conservatives didn’t even mention it their manifesto,” he said.
“Nick Clegg pushed it in the TV debates at the last election while David Cameron said that it couldn’t be afforded. At each and every Budget and each and every Autumn Statement we have fought for the personal allowance and consistently made that our priority.
“The Conservatives have swithered around from one thing to the other: (cutting) Corporation tax, (introducing) the marriage tax allowance, the shares for rights scheme, cutting the 50p rate.
“It is interesting that the things that they pushed in Government are not the things that you hear them mention anymore. You don’t hear the Tories campaign on shares for rights or tax cuts for the wealthy yet those were the things that they pushed as part of this process.”
Mr Alexander added: “The Tories are now trying - in a way which is breathtakingly hypocritical – to take the credit for raising the tax free allowance, something that actually only happened because the Liberal Democrats put it on the political agenda.
“It is only happening because in each and every one of these meetings we said we can’t spend money on this tax break for the wealthy. At every stage we’ve got to make sure that the biggest thing that we’re doing is cutting taxes for working people. We have looked after working people – they have tried to look after the bosses.”
Mr Alexander also claimed that the Tories blocked plans to introduce an extra charge on high value properties – a so called mansion tax - out of concern for alienating the party’s donor base.
“We pushed the idea that there should be an additional tax on the highest value properties at two or three budgets at least,” he said. “At every stage the Tories rejected that. They have been pretty clear that it is something that their donors don’t like. They have been using it ruthlessly to get more money from these donors. It’s been pretty transparent that what’s been going on is that their backers don’t like it.”
Mr Alexander’s comments come as the Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls prepares to make a speech attacking the government’s choices on tax, saying that under the Tories “millions pay more while millionaires pay less.”
“David Cameron and George Osborne (have) ditched the idea that we are ‘all in this together’ and looked after their friends first,” he will say.
“Cutting the top rate of tax for the very highest earners, while raising VAT on families. It’s the Tory way: millions pay more, millionaires pay less.”
The Independent has got together with May2015.com to produce a poll of polls that produces the most up-to-date data in as close to real time as possible.
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