Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Tory leader David Cameron yesterday took the same train to Wales in a last-minute appeal for votes in next week’s council elections. But as Matt Withers and David Williamson discovered, the two men have radically different ideas of how to win votes
GORDON BROWN staged a fightback on his visit to Wales yesterday – but this was no charm offensive.
The Prime Minister insisted the Government was right to scrap the 10p income tax threshold and pledged to press on with plans to increase the limit on holding terrorist suspects from 28 to 42 days. The two measures have ignited strong opposition within Labour ranks.
Mr Brown said: “Both are the right long-term decisions for the country.”
And despite the entry of pro-independence politicians into government in Wales and Scotland, he predicted that voters will reject nationalist polices.
While Tory leader David Cameron may have met scores of onlookers as he went on a walkabout in the Welsh capital yesterday, a police cordon blocked protesters from entering the Swansea University facility where the Prime Minister met researchers.
Mr Brown, when challenged why he was talking to a small number of cancer and diabetes specialists instead of meeting the public in the week before Welsh local government elections, said he was “meeting as many people as possible”.
Defending the decision to visit experts at the Institute of Life Science, he said: “I think it’s very important that we acknowledge that Wales is leading not just Britain but leading Europe in many of these critical breakthrough areas of medical research.”
When asked for assurances that provisions will be put in place to ensure Britain’s poorest workers will not lose out as a result of the scrapping of the 10p tax rate, he said: “For the low-paid workers, we’re looking at the mechanisms by which it can happen and where we can do so we will try our best to make sure that happens.”
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne had used a visit to the National Assembly this week to brand the tax changes as “immoral”. Clearly frustrated by such criticism, Mr Brown said: “You’ve got to remember that the biggest beneficiaries of these two Budgets are the low-paid and families with children.
“Child tax credit is rising, the pensioner tax allowance means that 600,000 pensioners are escaping the need to pay taxation, the minimum wage is going up and there’s more from the working tax credit to help people.”
He faces a further battle to convince MPs in his own party that it is right to lock up terrorism suspects for up to six weeks. Yesterday, he said: “We’re going ahead with our proposals. Look, you’ve always got to balance liberty and security in your country.
“And so I’m very determined that we can protect the civil liberties of the individual. But I’m also determined that we do everything in our power so that we are well prepared for any terrorist incident and be absolutely sure that we can do everything to protect the public.”
Rejecting the suggestion that nationalist parties in Wales and Scotland will continue to make gains, his dismissed their goals as belonging to another century.
He said: “I think that when people look at the future of our country they will see that interdependence is the way forward – people recognising the links they have with each other. And I think people will think less of the attractions of what is an attempt to return to a 19th century state through independence.”
Page two: Cameron bounces into Wales to meet some ‘real people’