Senior Lib Dems want Nick Clegg to promise a return to 50p top rate

Manifesto should distance party from 'tax cut for millionaires'

Nick Clegg is under pressure from senior Liberal Democrats to fight the 2015 election on a pledge to restore the 50p rate of tax on earnings over £150,000 a year, which will be reduced to 45p.

With Labour expected to promise in its next election manifesto to bring back the 50p top rate, the Conservatives could find themselves isolated as they defend what Labour has dubbed a “tax cut for millionaires”.

Today the Lib Dems joined Labour in criticising George Osborne after the Chancellor suggested that the case of Mick Philpott, the unemployed man who killed six of his 17 children in a fire, reinforced the need for welfare reform.

Danny Alexander, the Chancellor’s Lib Dem deputy who is normally loyal to his Treasury boss, said: “George Osborne is right that there needs to be a wide debate about the future of our welfare system, but the Philpott case is an individual tragedy. Children have died in that case. I think that’s where we should let that case lie. I wouldn’t want to connect that to the much wider need to reform our welfare system.”

Senior Lib Dems say they are appalled by Mr Osborne’s attempt to exploit for political gain what they regard as an exceptional case. Lord Oakeshott, the party’s former Treasury spokesman, said: “George Osborne is not fit to be Chancellor if he cannot see it is wrong to play politics with the deaths of six children.

“You can forgive his immaturity and inexperience in high office, but not this callous cynicism.”

Mr Clegg joined forces with David Cameron last year to block Mr Osborne’s original proposal to reduce the top tax rate from 50p to 40p, but accepted a cut to 45p. The Lib Dem leader’s instinct now is to leave the top rate at 45p and extend the party’s drive to tax wealth rather than income – for example, through the proposed “mansion tax” on homes worth more than £2m.

But Mr Clegg faces a battle with his own party at its annual conference in September over what its 2015 manifesto should say on tax.

Tim Farron, its president, told the Lib Dem Voice website: “Cutting the top rate was a stupid thing to do. It probably raised up to £3bn a year. We should pledge to restore the 50p rate at the next election. It’s not enough to be fair, you have to be seen to be fair.”

Lord Oakeshott said: “In such hard times, we should never have rolled over when the Tories wanted to cut the 50p rate unless we got a mansion tax in return. At the next election, both the mansion tax and a 50p rate should be at the forefront of Lib Dem tax policy.”

Gareth Epps, a member of the Lib Dem tax working group and the co-chair of the Social Liberal Forum pressure group, said: “While the Treasury’s own figures about the 50p are highly questionable, the politics of cutting tax for the very rich make no sense; there is no reason why a 50p rate shouldn’t be part of a solution for tough times.

“However, a higher top rate on its own will not do nearly enough to make the changes we want to see. So we need to see the end to protection of vested interests in the form of unearned income and wealth. A land value tax set against large property estates and developer interests would remedy an unfairness which is centuries-old. That should be a manifesto commitment – not just the first step of a mansion tax.”

Now that the Lib Dems have secured their 2010 pledge to raise the tax threshold to £10,000 from next year, their next manifesto is likely to say it should rise to £12,500, the level of the minimum wage.

Labour has issued figures claiming that a one-earner family will lose an average of £4,000 in the financial year starting today. It said calculations by the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed that gains from the higher personal allowance would be swamped by higher VAT and cuts to tax credits and child benefit.

Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, said: “The whole country will today see whose side this Conservative-led Government is really on and who is paying the price for their total economic failure. David Cameron and George Osborne are today giving millionaires an average tax cut of £100,000 while they make millions of pensioners and working people on middle and low incomes worse off.”

Mr Cameron yesterday defended the Chancellor’s controversial remarks on the Philpott case, saying he had stressed that Philpott was “responsible” for his crimes.

“What the Chancellor went on to say is that we should ask some wider questions about our welfare system, how much it costs and the signals it sends,” the Prime Minister said. “We do want to make clear that welfare is there to help people who work hard and should not be there as a lifestyle choice.”

A YouGov poll for Channel 5 News found that 43 per cent of people believe the Philpott case “does raise some serious questions about the benefits system”, but a majority (51 per cent) think it was “just the actions of an evil man and we shouldn’t draw wider lessons from it”.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice