VAT and National Insurance at PMQs.


Today was the last Prime Minister’s Questions before the General Election and as usual David Cameron dodged most of the stuff thrown at him, save for a few nice, fluffy “would my right honourable friend agree that our long term economic plan is awesome…?”-type planted questions from Tory cronies. It’s an embarrassing spectacle to behold, but at least it was the last time we’ll have to put up with the braying animals this side of the election. A few months off, at least!

Ed Miliband asked David Cameron whether he would rule out a hike in VAT, to which Cameron (off-message, according to treasury rep Priti Patel) said yes, he would rule out a hike. Cameron then went on to ask Ed Miliband (over and over) whether he would rule out a hike in National Insurance contributions. Ed couldn’t rule it out and said “There’ll be plenty of time to ask ME questions after May 7th” (which I loved).

But here’s the thing: He can’t rule it out because it’s likely that NI will be raised should Labour get into government. And maybe this isn’t such a bad thing! National Insurance is just that – insuring the nation, against the worst the world can throw at it, financially. Your NI contributions help pay for the NHS, for state pensions, for sick pay and holiday pay and unemployment benefit. It helps keep the poorest and least fortunate in society safe and it set according to your means. It’s a good thing! It means you get to see your Doctor for free. That – heaven forbid – if you lose your job you don’t have to starve. It means that if you’re too ill to work, you can still afford to eat.

You should be proud to pay National Insurance contributions. I am! Nobody likes paying more from their wages, but at least your National Insurance contributions are benefiting the nation as a whole, including yourself, come hard times (and they will come).

VAT, on the other hand, is a regressive tax that hits the poorest hardest. Since it’s a tax on “stuff” rather than on your earnings it means that someone who earns £8,000 a year pays the same amount as someone on £80,000. It’s not very fair when you see it put that way, is it? As for Cameron ruling out a hike in VAT; sure, it’s a nice sentiment. But he promised the exact same thing before the last election and it was one of the first promises he broke. In fact, here are some VAT stats from governments past:

1979: Tories hike VAT
1993: Tories hike VAT
1997: Labour cut VAT
2009: Labour cut VAT
2010: Tories hike VAT

The Tories have form! They like to put VAT up because it hardly affects their mates, who have enough money to not have to worry about an extra few percent on cereal bars etc. It’s the poorest in society that will feel the burn if VAT is raised again. And the chances are, going on their previous actions, the Tories are willing to break Cameron’s off-script promise not to do so.

David Cameron has already – arrogantly, in my opinion – ruled out his serving a third term as PM, even though he hasn’t yet won a second (and didn’t actually win his first!). He doesn’t give a shit what happens after about 2020. Why would he? He won’t be there, regardless of the way things go. He’s a selfish, slippery character who – as proven earlier this week, at Age UK – can’t handle the pressure of challenge. He has been so highly-hyped that he’s beginning to believe his own lies. And the mask is slipping.

Recently, BBC Three aired a series of Q&A sessions called Free Speech with the aim of engaging younger voters. Ed Miliband sat for an hour and answered questions (performing very well, in my opinion – he came across as a decent man) from young voters, as did the leaders of Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the SNP. Cameron refused the show’s offer to appear, instead sending nobody Education Minister Sam Gyimah to represent him, alongside right-wingers Luisa Zissman, Toby Young and Ian Birrell. His refusal to engage with young voters and his inability to field questions from his core-voters, OAPs, shows that Cameron is not only incapable of dealing with confrontation but actively avoids it at all costs. You can see Ed Miliband on Free Speech here, where you will also find links to the other episodes. I’d recommend you take a look!

We’re just a handful of weeks away from the General Election now. Whoever you think your vote should be given to I ask only this: Please go out and use your vote. If you think none of them are deserving of your vote then spoil the ballot, draw a cock on the voting slip or something! But please, make your mark. Have your say. Vote, for Christ’s sake, VOTE!

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