Kit Malthouse distances London Conservatives from Westminster colleagues as Tory mayor calls for more tax cuts
Boris Johnson has “question marks” over elements of George Osborne’s March budget, his deputy mayor has said.
Kit Malthouse, a Conservative member of the London assembly who serves as deputy mayor for policing, spoke after the Tory mayor used an interview in the Sunday Telegraph to cast himself as a “tax-cutting Conservative” who was ready to do battle with the government in the interests of London.
The Conservatives in London appeared to distance themselves from colleagues in Westminster amid polling showing the Conservative party dropping below 30% in the latest YouGov survey for the Sunday Times.
In comments interpreted as suggesting Osborne should have gone further by reducing the top rate of tax down to 40p, rather than 45p, Johnson told the Sunday Telegraph London needed to be “tax competitive”.
The mayor has come under criticism for battling for the top rate of tax to be reduced while failing to apply similar pressure on the government over measures which critics say are hurting other groups in society.
But Malthouse defended Johnson’s refusal to “jump on the bandwagon” by attacking “very highly paid people” working in the City.
The Tory assembly member for West Central, who is seeking re-election on Thursday, said he had witnessed Johnson “badgering” David Cameron and Osborne to get London the deal it needed.
“It’s the beating heart often of the UK economy and it needs investment, and so he has over the last four years extracted billions of pounds for investment in the basic infrastructure in London to produce an economic machine, if you like, that will be the rival of the world, and in those circumstances I think he does think the government has done really well.”
Asked whether Johnson was pleased that Osborne had bowed to his repeated demand for the scrapping of the 50p top rate of tax, Malthouse said Johnson had taken “a lot of flack” for standing up for London’s competitiveness across the world. “Boris recognised early on, and I have to say I think he called it right, that it would be a mistake to jump on the bandwagon of trashing that industry [financial services] and, yes, some of the very highly paid people who work for it.”
Johnson has highlighted his closeness to the government under a nine-point plan for re-election, stating he is the best placed to secure “a better deal for London from No 10″.
Pressed on the budget and the introduction of the so-called “granny tax”, Malthouse said: “I don’t think he necessarily backs the entire balance of things that were in the budget. I think there are a number of things that he has some question mark over, but at the same time, his view was that for London to remain competitive, to attract the best and the brightest here, and to attract the headquarters of some huge financial institutions, we had to be tax competitive and having a higher rate tax at 50% did not put us in that position. It was putting people off coming.”
Johnson, who is outpolling his party in the runup to the 3 May election, told the Sunday Telegraph he needed to look at “what I can do to bear down on people’s expenses”, citing his plans to cut council tax by 10% in the next four years.
Johnson seized on the funding secured for the £16bn Crossrail project as proof of his preparedness to take on Osborne and fellow ministers.
“My job is to fight for London, and to borrow a metaphor from the only sport in which I remotely excel, to wrest the ball out of the scrum for London when I think it’s necessary. I’ve shown repeatedly I can do that. We’ve saved Crossrail from the jaws of death – AKA George Osborne. We got £3bn for housing budgets in London. I’ve been able to get the budgets to keep police numbers high and we’re going to do this for the foreseeable future. I don’t mind having a row in Whitehall, I don’t mind how much plaster comes off the ceiling, providing it’s done in a robust and sensible way and London gets the money it needs.”
Johnson, who has temporarily suspended his Daily Telegraph column for the duration of his re-election campaign, left it to Malthouse to stand in for him in an interview with the Sunday politics show, with just days to go before 5.8m Londoners have their say.
Malthouse said Johnson was not able to appear in person because of a “longstanding” private engagement, though it appeared on Twitter that he was out campaigning in Wimbledon and Kingston at the time.
Successive polling shows Johnson looks set to be re-elected on Thursday, with the latest ComRes poll giving him a clear eight percentage-point lead over his Labour rival, Ken Livingstone, despite the fact that Labour is significantly ahead of the Conservative party in the capital.
A spokesman for Livingstone said: “Boris Johnson’s call for an even lower rate of tax for the richest indicates the direction of travel if the Tories won in London – emboldening the Tory right, pressing the Tory-led government to go even further on tax and spending cuts, years of soaring fares, and a growing social divide in London. Only voting Labour for mayor will stop that terrible scenario this week.”
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