Chancellor Philip Hammond told the BBC’s Andrew Marr this morning that there would be no ‘spending spree’ announced in next week’s Budget because he had to ensure,
that we have got reserves in the tank, so as we embark on the journey that we will be taking over the next couple of years, we are confident that we have got enough gas in the tank to see us through that journey.
Hammond was trying to maintain the myth of Tory Economic Competence, even though – as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pointed out at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, the Tories since 2010 have borrowed more than every Labour government in history. Marr, of course, failed to question him on that.
But Hammond’s statement raises another very apposite issue: what exactly does Philip Hammond put into the ‘reserves tank’??
Hammond, a multi-millionaire, has been challenged repeatedly by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to publish his own tax return, to prove that he is contributing his fair share – and Hammond has repeatedly dodged the question, before finally refusing, point blank and peevishly, just today, to do so (video).
Hammond’s excuses ring hollow and have no foundations, as McDonnell has been publishing his own tax returns for ages. Here’s one, in case you haven’t seen them:
It shows that McDonnell paid 23% of his income into the UK’s tax pot.
Now Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has piled the pressure onto the shifty chancellor by publishing his on his website, just as he did last year while then-PM David Cameron was squirming over his offshore tax affairs.
Corbyn paid £35,298 in tax in the latest complete tax year (2015/16), 31% of his £114,342 salary – in anything, he’s overpaid a little, as he did in the previous year.
It’s a masterstroke by the Labour leadership – and a huge open-mouth-insert-foot moment for the hapless Chancellor to defend his ridiculous austerity agenda on one of the BBC’s flagship politics programmes by talking about tax ‘reserves’ that he’s scared to tell us how much he contributes to.
So, Mr Hammond, what’s it going to be? Will you publish your tax return and let the British people make up their mind whether you’re a fit and proper person to be running the country’s finances? I’d put money on it that his notional tax rate isn’t anywhere near either 31% or 23%.
Or will he continue to hide them and be seen as a coward as well as presumed to be a self-centred, conscienceless tax-avoider?
Either way, he’s in a cleft stick of his own making – and is stamping on the shattered pieces of the myth of Tory trustworthiness on the economy.
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