In his Leader’s speech at this year’s Labour Party conference Ed Miliband neatly encapsulated David Cameron’s approach to ‘leadership’:
“Here’s the thing about David Cameron: he may be strong at standing up to the weak, but he’s always weak when it comes to standing up to the strong.”
We saw Cameron’s leadership principles in action this past week.
Cameron – Strong when standing up to the weak:
When SSE, one of the six major energy suppliers in Britain, announced that it was putting up its prices by 8.2% per annum from November this year Cameron panicked. He knew two things.
– Cameron knew that Ed Miliband had taken the moral and political high ground when the Labour leader told the conference in September that, on election in 2015, the incoming Labour government would freeze fuel prices and reset the energy market.
– Cameron knew that he desperately had to say something – anything – to appease irate customers of SSE and calm the nerves of the Tories.
So what did he instruct his Downing Street spokesman to say? The spokesman, although speaking in code, told us that Cameron and Osborne were looking to withdraw the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). The ECO, which is administered by the energy companies, provides a subsidy to help households of the poorest customers in order to reduce energy inefficiency through, for example, enhanced insulation and new boilers. It looks as though the government is planning to cut this financial support for poorer people to cut energy bills for the other consumers. This an inverted form of the principle of ‘progressive’ taxation that forms the cornerstone of the British tax system. The poor pay more, the better off pay less.
Not only would this be iniquitous but would be one more nail in the coffin of Cameron’s boastful promise that his government would be the greenest ever.
Cameron – Weak when standing up to the strong?
In the same week that the government’s Business Secretary, Lib Dem’s Vince Cable, sold off our profitable Royal Mail for a song, a report from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed that, in tax year 2010/11, £4.7bn corporation tax was lost through evasion and avoidance. HMRC shows that £1 in every £10 of corporation tax is spirited away from the taxman.
The HMRC report reveals the total “tax gap” between what it expects to receive in revenue and what it actually collects now stands at £35bn. This is an increase of £1bn from the figure given in 2010/11.
The situation is even worse than it first looks because the £4.7bn does not take into account the profits earned by the companies who handle their tax affairs, perfectly legally, offshore. The list of these companies includes global giants such as Google, Amazon and Starbucks.
Labour’s shadow exchequer secretary, Shabana Mahmood, comments: “At a time when millions are struggling with the rising cost of living and the deficit is high, it’s even more vital that everyone pays their fair share of tax. But these figures show the Government is failing to tackle tax avoidance and evasion with the value of the tax gap now up to £35bn.”
Get caught ‘cheating’ the benefit system and you face financial ruin and prison.
Get caught evading corporation tax – a highly unlikely event – in one domain, say the Virgin Islands and, hey presto, you move your operation to Liechtenstein! No danger of prison for you!
One rule for the weak, another for the strong.
And have we heard anything serious from Mr Cameron about any of this?
Ed Miliband is right: Mr Cameron only stands up for the strong.
While Ed Miliband has stood up to the Energy companies, the Mail and Murdoch, Cameron has stood up to the poor.
Britain Can Do Better Than This