Newsnet Main Articles

  By Martin Kelly
A Labour MP reportedly brought in to help the struggling No campaign, has been left red faced after appearing to make false claims in a live TV interview.
Douglas Alexander was being challenged on claims made by the Labour party which suggested people in the UK had paid an extra £450 VAT on their yearly shopping bills.

However when pressed that such a claim would be impossible over such a period, the Paisley MP told interviewer Andrew Neil the time period for the figure was not one year, but four.

The interview centred on a Labour party campaign leaflet which showed food and drink, along with what appeared to be some cleaning items, next to which was a message which read: "They put £450 extra VAT on your shopping bill"

However when pressed on the accuracy of the leaflet, the Labour MP was forced to admit that the food items did not incur VAT.  Mr Alexander claimed their inclusion on the leaflet was merely "a visual representation of the weekly shop"

The Labour MP hit out at the BBC presenter over claims the VAT figure was wrong, and asked: "So you are denying that £450 extra is being paid by average families on their shopping bill during the year?"

However when it was explained to Mr Alexander that to reach such a figure in the course of a year, a family would have to spend more than their entire annual salary on buying shopping that attracted VAT, the Labour MP immediately backtracked on his earlier "during the year" statement.

Asked how a family on a disposable income of £21,000 could spend the required £21,600 on VATable goods, Alexander contradicted the statement he had made moments earlier and replied: "It doesn't say it is an annualised figure does it?"

The Labour MP then claimed the figure had been calculated "over the course of the parliament".

However, comments from party colleagues uncovered by online site Wings Over Scotland have exposed Mr Alexander's claim as false.  In a series of quotes unearthed by the site, it has emerged that the one year period was indeed the timescale referred to by the leaflet.

Comments unearthed include:

"While the Government is giving the banks a tax cut this year, the VAT rise has hit families hard – costing a couple with kids around £450 per year." (Cathy Jamieson, shadow economic secretary to the Treasury)

"A family with children earning £20,000 still loses £253 a year from this April as a result of the government's other cuts to things like tax credits and child benefit. That's on top of the VAT rise which is costing families an average £450 a year." (Rachel Reeves, shadow work and pensions secretary)

"Families with children will lose an average of £511 a year from changes to tax, benefits and tax credits being introduced from tomorrow, according to new figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies being highlighted by Labour today.

The analysis follows last month's Budget and is on top of tax rises already introduced, like last year's VAT rise which is costing a family with children an average of £450 per year." (Ed Balls, shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer)

"The Chancellor already raised VAT to 20% in 2011 and this is costing families with children an average of £450 a year." (Owen Smith, MP for Pontypridd and shadow Treasury minister)

"Families are already suffering from  last year's VAT rise which is costing a family with children an average of £450 per year and these cuts will pile on even more misery during difficult times." (Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles South)

"A family with children earning just £20,000 will lose £253 a year from this April, on top of the VAT rise which is costing a family an average of £450 per year." (Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish)

The gaff has thrown the spotlight on Alexander who, according to the Daily Mail, has been drafted in to help the struggling anti-independence campaign.  According to the newspaper, Alexander's colleague, Labour MP Alistair Darling has been sidelined after conducting a campaign described by some of his Conservative allies as 'comatose'.

Douglas Alexander's involvement in election campaigns is one fraught with controversy.  In 2007 he was forced to issue an apology after the Scottish elections ended in chaos with 140,000 spoiled ballot papers.

The Labour MP was also criticised after it emerged that in 1999 he had told his party that they had to "engender fear" into the hearts of the Scottish electorate in order to thwart the SNP.


# Breeks 2014-05-14 06:57
Jabbed with his own forked tongue.

This Labour smart Alec is no match for our smart Alex.

Imagine advocating the intimidation of your own people to the point of fear for your party's political gain. That's been Better Together from the outset and a fat lot of good its done them. Nothing wrong with the strategy evidently, just Darling not up to scaring us properly. Here, let me have a go.
# iain2013 2014-05-14 07:17
Cathy Jameson's recent vote in support of the UK government's cap on benefits spending also hit families hard, especially those of the 33% of children living in poverty in the Kilmarnock South ward of her constituency. As for Alexander, it's all been said before by people more eloquent than me.
# drumoyneguy 2014-05-14 07:31
the ability of labour party people two say two different things regarding the same subject has never failed to amaze me, they must run a school of lying through your teeth
# Barbazenzero 2014-05-14 08:17
The £450 per annum claim is in the Labour Euro election broadcast about 1m 50s in. See

Quite a reasonable expression of the LD role in the coalition otherwise, but of course no mention that Labour introduced the bedroom tax etc.
# thejourneyman 2014-05-14 08:44
If wee Dougie had been on top of his brief he would have realised Mr Neil's claim was even more devoid of any logic. His sums were dramatically wrong because spending £21,600 on vatable goods at 20% would generate £4,320 not £450 which would only require an expenditure of £2250 which is well within the means of someone on the average salary of £21,000. Don't know why the media keep going over this and not spotting AN's major error.
How wee Dougie got caught out is beyond me but in the circumstances the whole interview was devoid of sense. AN was blinded in his efforts to trip DA up. Laughable!

Admin - The claim is £450 extra on their VAT as a result of the 2.5 per cent increase.
# Jo Bloggs 2014-05-14 09:47
2.5% of £21,600 is actually £540.
# thejourneyman 2014-05-14 13:39
Sorry admin my point remains Mr Neil's example was still flawed. What you are saying is consumers would need to spend an additional £2250 to generate extra £450 vat. AN was suggesting they'd have to spend full £21.6k and, having watched your clip again, he calls the whole salary "disposable income" which it clearly is not.
So, interview was a car crash all round and while I am no fan of DA, we can usually expect him to be better prepared in such circumstances.
# thejourneyman 2014-05-14 15:55
Sorry admin but Mr Neil is wide of the mark. I have watched your clip again and his reasoning is no better than DA's response. I accept the point you make but the whole interview was a car crash as interviewer and interviewee were misguided in their questions and answers respectively. I am not a DA supporter but AN is equally at fault here and I think that point needs to be made if Newsnet is willing to let it be heard.
# Corm 2014-05-14 18:08
The figures and numbers ARE all over the place. As the article states no one with disposable income of £21k will spend it all on standard rate Vatable goods and services. Food, heat & power rent and rates being the main household expenses and none at standard rate. Without the maths used to reach the £450 they could have said it would add £10billion and it would be just as clear.
# Neimo Fakir 2014-05-14 21:39
A gross spend of £18,000 would work out to a net cost of £21,150 once VAT of 17.5% is added. With VAT at 20%, the net cost is now £21,600. A difference of £450.

Isn't this a bit smoke and mirrors? Surely the VAT increase means that the value of the goods has increased and your finite pot of "disposable" income now buys you less. What are people not buying now that they can buy less for the same amount of money? Or are we back to living off the credit card again so soon?

You must be logged-in in order to post a comment.


Donate to Newsnet Scotland


Latest Comments