POLITICS

Ed Miliband Urged To Offer More Than ‘Static' 50p Debate By Ex-Labour Ministers

30/01/2014 11:47 GMT | Updated 30/01/2014 11:59 GMT
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LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband speaks to supporters on January 17, 2014 in London, England. Mr Miliband has called for the creation of two challenger banks to tackle the dominance of the five biggest banks in the United Kingdom. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Ed Miliband needs to offer a wider policy platform than "static" debates about bringing back the 50p top rate of income tax in order to win the next election, Labour ex-ministers have warned.

Former Treasury minister Kitty Ussher said Labour should avoid just arguing “in a static way about 5p here or 5p there” on changing the income tax rate.

“Once they [voters] come to realise our interests are aligned with their interests, than they may start to trust us come the next election,” she told an audience at a policy conference hosted by the IPPR and Policy Network think-tanks.

Ussher's comments come after Ed Balls announced that a Labour government would reverse the Tories' income tax cut for those earning over £150,000 from 50p to 45p.

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Labour politicians have campaigned heavily on the cost of living, warning that workers’ take home pay has fallen by £1,600 since David Cameron came to power. However, coalition ministers claim that workers’ pay packets have actually increased in the last year and will continue to rise.

Ussher warned that Labour will need to change its message as the economic recovery takes hold, saying: “real wages are rising [and] that’s going to totally alter the debate”.

She also urged the party to focus on "glaring" problems affecting workers like the "under-employment and under-payment of women" in the workplace, rather than on increasing the minimum wage, which she said covers just 4% of adults.

Speaking alongside Ussher, former science minister and party donor Lord Sainsbury said that Labour needed to offer a clear message to avoid being caricatured by the Tories as a party that would Britain backwards if re-elected.

“If a political party’s programme of reform is going to attract voters, it must be able to state clearly how the state plays its role.

“The danger for the Labour party at the moment is that if there’s not a clear political economy, it’d be very easy for Conservatives to say this is a return to the past”.

The peer used the example of Prime Minister David’s Cameron’s Big Society project to illustrate the problems of a poorly-defined message.

“The Big Society was never a credible political economy because there never was an indication of how the state was going to achieve it beyond the Prime Minister was going to ask people to be a bit nicer.”