Richard Burgon swiped at ‘well paid’ BBC presenter Nick Robinson today as he struggled to defend Jeremy Corbyn’s admission that ordinary workers will face tax rises if he wins power.
The shadow justice secretary floundered as he dismissed ‘cheap’ criticism of Labour’s £58billion uncosted pensions splurge.
And he desperately dodged saying explicitly that the party would increase taxes on people who are not in the top 5 per cent of earners – despite Mr Corbyn being forced to concede as much during a car-crash BBC interview last night.
The Labour leader has always claimed that under his policies, only businesses and those on more than £80,000 would pay more tax.
But last week the Institute for Fiscal Studies said many others would pay more, largely because Labour was scrapping the marriage tax allowance.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon (pictured on Sky News today) floundered as he dismissed ‘cheap’ criticism of Labour’s £58billion uncosted pensions splurge
And in his extraordinary interview with Andrew Neil last night, Mr Corbyn admitted this would cost many people £250 a year.
The Labour leader also admitted he had no idea how much tax richer people pay.
Mr Corbyn floundered under questioning over Labour’s plans for higher dividend taxes, which Neil said could see someone on just £14,000 a year paying £400 more in tax.
The marriage tax allowance allows couples to transfer their personal income tax threshold between them, cutting the amount of tax they pay.
And Mr Corbyn flailed around when challenged over how he would fund a £58billion ‘bribe’ to women pensioners born in the 1950. The veteran left-winger said the massive payouts were ‘moral’, but eventually admitted they would have to be funded by borrowing.
Mr Burgon was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme why the money was being given to well-off people such as former PM Theresa May and Labour’s Harriet Harman, along with those on low incomes.
Mr Burgon told Robinson: ‘That is the same me as me being asked is it moral for you to go into hospital and not pay for it, because you get paid very well.’
Robinson replied: ‘No it isn’t, it’s a question about whether you should make a priority of giving Theresa May – a relatively wealthy woman – almost £22,000 when I could give you a long list of other priorities for that money, including reversing all the benefit cuts during austerity, which Labour is not committed to doing.’
An obviously irritated Mr Burgon shot back: ‘These cheap arguments you are putting forward about Theresa May or Harriet Harman are intended to be a distraction.
‘It’s exactly the same as somebody saying, should a millionaire be allowed into A&E because they are able to pay for it. It’s the thin end of the wedge.’
But Robinson replied: ‘If only they were cheap. They are not cheap. It’s £58billion. Far from being cheap it is incredibly expensive.’
Mr Burgon said: ‘I make no apology, the Labour Party makes no apology for taking the action necessary to right this wrong.’
Mr Burgon desperately dodged saying explicitly that the party would increase taxes on people who are not in the top 5 per cent of earners – despite Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) being forced to concede as much during a car-crash BBC interview last night
Mr Burgon said: ‘There’s going to be no income-tax rises for anybody apart from the top 5 per cent and the top 5 per cent of people who earn around £80,000 or more.’
Pressed to say in ‘plain English’ whether abolishing a marriage tax allowance was a tax rise, Mr Burgon said: ‘That allowance is going away, but it’s more than made up for in the extra funding, the extra resources they’ll be getting.’
At the start of the BBC interview last night, Mr Corbyn claimed that ‘only those earning over £80,000 per year will see a tax increase’ under Labour’s plans.
But when challenged about the scrapping of the marriage tax allowance, he replied: ‘The marriage allowance is £250 a year.’
Mr Neil said: ‘These people, there’s almost two million of them, are going to lose £250 and they earn a lot less than £80,000.’
The Labour leader replied: ‘But they will also be getting a pay rise when we bring in a living wage. They will also be getting improvement in free nursery provision for two to four year olds.’
Pressed twice on the fact they will pay more tax, he said: ‘They’ll also get properly funded schools. They won’t get the advantage, it’s actually taking away £250.’
Mr Neil then asked him about Labour’s higher dividend taxes, which he said would hit people on modest incomes too.
He cited the example of someone on a state pension who has an annuity of £4,000, a small private pension and they’ve saved and have a dividend income of £2,000.
The host said: ‘At the moment they pay £9 in income tax, that’s it. Under you they’ll pay over £400 in income tax. We’re talking about people who are just on £14,000 a year.’
Mr Corbyn replied: ‘They’ll be taxed on the basis of their total income.
‘It’s a graded tax, so that is reasonable and fair to do.
‘The whole purpose behind our manifesto, which I have here, is to recognise that we have to do something about the underfunding of our public services and the poverty and inequality that austerity has brought to this country.’
Mr Neil then asked what share of income tax revenues were paid by the top 5 per cent of earners.
The Labour leader replied: ‘I couldn’t give you the exact figure, but they contribute quite a lot.’
When Mr Neil informed him they contribute 50 per cent of all income tax revenues, he replied: ‘But they are very high earners.’
The host then asked him what would happen if these high earners left the country. He replied: ‘There is no reason why they would have to leave the country, and they shouldn’t because we want people to be here, we want people to be investing, and also they will get the benefits of a growing economy.’