Labour conference: Miliband defends Cameron tax claims

Ed Miliband: "I am not making an issue of David Cameron's background or worth"

Ed Miliband has defended claims in his conference speech that David Cameron would personally benefit from an income tax "cut for millionaires".

The Labour leader suggested the prime minister would be among thousands of people receiving a cheque for £40,000 as a result in the cut in the 50p rate.

He told the BBC he was not questioning Mr Cameron's "background or worth".

But he said it was fair to ask the prime minister to "come clean" about whether he stood to gain himself.

In Tuesday's Labour conference speech, Mr Miliband attacked the government's decision to reduce the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45% next April.

'Hyperbole'

He suggested Mr Cameron would not only be "writing the cheque" but receiving one as well.

But business groups criticised the remarks, accusing the Labour leader of "hyperbole" and conflating people with total assets worth more than a million with the much smaller group of people who earn a seven-figure salary.

Asked about the claim, he told BBC Breakfast he did not know what Mr Cameron earned and he was "not making an issue of David Cameron's background or worth".

But he added: "What I am saying is when you are making a tax decision as the prime minister, if you are cutting taxes for a very small section of the population and you are one of them, then actually you have a bit of a responsibility to come clean about that...

"The real thing I think is wrong is you have a tax cut for 300,000 people at the top of society at the same time as ordinary families are seeing their living standards squeezed.

"People will have to make a judgement: do they want a prime minister who thinks that is OK for our country or not? That is the question I was posing yesterday."

Asked about his own financial worth, Mr Miliband said he would not benefit from the 50p move.

'What I believe'

Mr Miliband also defended the repeated use of the phrase "one nation" - historically associated with the Conservatives - in his leader's address.

He said it represented more than a shift in tone but was a decisive break in "political approach" from both the Labour governments of the 1970s and Tony Blair's New Labour, in terms of their management of the economy and their relationship with the City.

The Labour leader delivered the 65-minute speech without an autocue and he told Radio 4's Today that the idea to do so had come to him soon after last year's conference address.

He said: "People are fed up with politics which feels like it is reading out something that someone else has written for you. I tried to say what I believed and that is the best thing to do."

Mr Miliband said he had prepared notes in advance but had also extemporised on stage: "The notes for the speech, such that they were, were 6,000 words. and I delivered 7,500."

At a question and answer session with Labour members on Wednesday, Mr Miliband was challenged over his support for public sector pay restraint - a stance criticised by union leaders.

Mr Miliband said

which has been a source of tension between the Labour leader and the unions.

He said: "I totally get the frustration public sector workers feel about pay. I have tried to give as candid an account as I can of what would happen if we were in government in this parliament."

Mr Miliband said he believed it was necessary to make some cuts, but did not agree with the coalition's approach.

He said: "If it's a choice then in the cuts we were making in public spending, between jobs and pay, then jobs should come first.

"But that doesn't mean it would be the same as under the Tories. They are imposing a 1% pay norm essentially across the board, making no account if you are low paid, middle paid or higher paid.

"Fairness in the way we handle public sector pay would be absolutely central to what a Labour government did."

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