He’s not “squeezing the rich for the sake of it”, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls tells C4 News, after announcing a return to the 50p rate. But he wants to show Britain that Labour is serious about change.
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“We’ve got to show – having lost the last election – that we can be trusted and credible to change Britain. No-one thinks the Tories will change Britain,” Ed Balls told Channel 4 News on Saturday in his only interview on the day he laid out his blueprint for a future Labour budget.
“We’ll make difficult decisions on welfare … there will be cuts in public spending, but you’ve got to do it in a fair way and we need a growing economy.”
Conservatives have said that the 50p tax band was a punitive tax that drove the richest people out of Britain and brought in a negligible revenue. Mr Balls says he thinks it will bring in a significant amount and that he is doing it for economic, not symbolic reasons.
I’m not saying it is a matter of principle. I’d rather tax rates were lower rather than higher. I’m not going to squeeze the rich for the sake of it. This is because we need a fair way to raise revenue, to get the deficit down and people on low and middle incomes have been hit hard. They’re worse off, despite David Cameron’s ridiculous claims, they’re worse off, but the people at the top have seen a big tax cut and that’s not fair.
On a more personal note, Mr Balls defended himself from accusations that he has been off the radar at a crucial stage for Labour – doing few interviews and keeping his head down. The Shadow Chancellor disagreed:
Do people in my constituency, most people in the country, worry about whether you or I tweet in the last 24 hours. No, I don’t think they do. I think we have to be slightly careful that we don’t get consumed by this sort-of insider world. It’s not the real world.
On rumours of tense relations with Ed Miliband, Mr Balls had this rebuttal: it’s tittle tattle gossip and nonsense. I can honestly say that to you.