Tories now 'the party of the poor'

The Conservative Party has claimed it is now the "party of the poor" in another attempt by David Cameron to invade Labour's natural territory.

Oliver Letwin, the Tories' policy chief, declared that the party now has "an array of policy" to tackle inequality, help the poor and achieve what Gordon Brown's "centralised approaches" have failed to accomplished.

Citing the decision by the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to implement a £7.40-an-hour "living wage" for Greater London Authority staff, he said the Tories were "leading the way on low pay".

Writing in the New Statesman, Mr Letwin said: "It is one of the ironies of the political scene that the leading advocates of radical change to achieve progressive goals are now to be found in the Conservative Party."

His claim will irritate Mr Brown, who accuses the Opposition of being "all spin, no substance". Ministers point out that the Tories have stopped short of matching Labour's target of abolishing child poverty by 2020, saying it is only an "aspiration".

Mr Letwin's move came as Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling slapped down calls from some ministers, trade unions and Labour activists for the Government to cut taxes for the low paid by raising them for people earning more than £100,000 a year.

"It is not something we are considering," said a Downing Street source. Mr Darling believes that a tax rise for such earners would send a "wrong signal" to people on less than £100,000 and damage Labour's attempt to show it was a "party of aspiration". A Treasury source said: "It is not on his agenda."

As The Independent disclosed yesterday, calls for a revamp of the tax system will be proposed when Mr Brown attends a meeting of Labour's national policy forum a week today.