It happened with his response on Accident and Emergency (A&E) waiting times, and now it’s happening again: Young Dave proudly pulls a rabbit out of the hat at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), only for his argument to fall apart a few hours later. “Yesterday Labour announced – in an important announcement – that it is now their policy to put up taxes on middle income people” he told triumphantly.
And, as with the A&E figures, that attack on Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman depends on a highly selective interpretation of what she actually said. Those less charitably inclined might say that it requires the simultaneous twisting of her words together with a suspension of disbelief. So what is at issue? Ms Harman said “I think people on middle incomes should contribute more through their taxes”.
However, and this is a significantly sized however, the context was not as Cameron suggested – that those on middle incomes would pay more than they do at present – but that they pay more than those on the lowest incomes. This conclusion was reached not by me, but Sophy Ridge, the Sky News political correspondent. But some pundits out there had already decided otherwise.
“Isn’t the way for [Harriet Harman] to end today’s row to come out and say she wants no further middle class tax rises in future?” demanded the Sun’s non-bullying Tom Newton Dunn. Christopher “No” Hope of the Telegraph was of similar mind: “This Harriet Harman quote spotted by the Tories while everyone was covering the reshuffle is turning attention back on Labour’s tax plans” he drooled.
But, for true idiocy, you had to look to Dan Hodges, still taking his bat home the longest way he can find: “Reason [Harriet Harman] saying Labour wants to raise middle class taxes is a problem is because Labour does want to raise middle class taxes”. That, of course, was not what she said, but so obsessed is Hodges with putting the boot into his old party that he went off and blogged about it.
Could anyone be yet more blatantly partisan about this one? You betcha, says Sarah: the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, tame gofer to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, told that “Expect to hear more about these Harman comments. Good old fashioned ambush”. Good old fashioned lying, more like – but Master Cole knows all about that sort of thing. Sadly, though, one observer dissented from his view.
Iain Dale judged that “The Prime Minister was somewhat careless with the actualité / overegged the pudding re [Harriet Harman’s] middle class tax comments”. And why should that matter? Iain is a former Tory Parliamentary candidate, and Ms Harman said what she said ON HIS LBC SHOW yesterday afternoon. The difference is that he, like Ms Ridge, has put the comments into context.
Far too many of the punditerati found this too challenging. That’s not good enough.