Kinnock backs tax rise as Hain recalls 'Redwood moment'

Image copyright Peter Hain
Image caption Folk singer Ralph McTell was among the stars joining Lord Kinnock and Peter Hain for the book launch

The ties and the trouser legs were narrower but Peter Hain's book launch had the feel of a 1970s Tribune rally.

Appropriate enough, you might think, as it was at such a gathering - the 1977 Labour conference in Brighton - that Neil Kinnock introduced the defecting leader of the Young Liberals to the Labour Party.

It was not love at first sight, as the Neath MP acknowledged last night.

At the end of his first speech as a Labour member, activists sang the Red Flag, presenting Peter Hain with his own "John Redwood" moment.

"I didn't know the words," he admitted. A news programme at the time featured Labour's newest recruit doing a passable imitation of a goldfish, although he assured his audience last night: "I do know the words now."

Lord Kinnock was full of praise for the man he recruited to Labour and the book - Back To The Future For Socialism - Mr Hain has written about his frustration with neoliberal economics and the overwhelming focus in British politics on deficit reduction.

"There is no propaganda of any description in this book," said the former Labour leader.

"Polemic has its place - God knows, I would have been out of a job - but there is no polemic here."

'Excellent' policy

Lord Kinnock praised what he said was Mr Hain's "additional adventurousness" in calling for the scrapping of National Insurance contributions which drop from 12% to 2% when earnings reach just under £42,000 a year. Mr Hain said it would raise £8bn a year that could be spent reducing income tax for the low paid.

"Why am I attracted by this?" Lord Kinnock asked. "I like the arithmetic but in addition of course it is almost a replica of the proposals in 1992 made by myself and John Smith for graduated increases beyond the then threshold of £21,000 a year in National Insurance contributions which would have generated over these intervening years gigantic sums equitably."

For some, the 1992 "shadow budget" helped cost Labour the election, but Lord Kinnock made clear he'd like to see an "excellent" policy adopted by the current Labour leader.

"Those who look for disparities between mainstream Labour leadership thinking and what Peter Hain says will search in vain because this argument is entirely consistent with the thrust of the argument for justice and protection for investment and care made by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls," he said.

To complete the retro feel, last night's audience included comedian-turned-pop star Tracey Ullman - re-united with Neil Kinnock 31 years after he appeared in the video for her hit My Guy.

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