Page last updated at 00:45 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

New Labour 'not dead' - Mandelson

Peter Mandelson
Lord Mandelson is widely seen as one of the architects of New Labour

Lord Mandelson has dismissed claims by the Conservatives that plans to help banks and raise income tax on high earners mean the end of New Labour.

In a speech to directors, the business secretary said it was the "times that have changed, not New Labour".

He said ministers had intervened not to crush markets but to rescue them and added they would not tax "out of envy".

Earlier Tory leader David Cameron said the "real lesson" from the pre-Budget report was that "New Labour's dead".

Lord Mandelson, widely regarded as one of the architects of New Labour, said in a speech to the Institute of Directors on Wednesday that some people had seen the measures taken by the government as a departure from its principles.

'Absolutely right'

"It wasn't. It is the times that have changed, not New Labour," he said.

Among measures taken by the government have been the nationalisation of Northern Rock, the recapitalisation of other major banks and Monday's pledge to raise income tax on earnings over 150,000 a year to 45p in the pound, from 2011.

Tony Blair pledged not to touch income tax rates when Labour came to power in 1997.

This week the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, has also warned that unless commercial banks resume their normal lending levels, the government "may have to intervene directly".

The New Labour principle still stands: we will only tax out of need, not out of envy or spite
Lord Mandelson

Lord Mandelson said: "It is absolutely right, at a time of financial crisis, the like of which has not been seen for decades, that the government throws its weight behind restoring the banking system to ensure the proper functioning of the economy.

"We have intervened in the banking crisis not to crush markets but to rescue them, because we want markets to work better."

He also said "New Labour is about more than just the top tax rate".

It was about maintaining economic stability, boosting business confidence and "sustaining an enterprise culture".

He added: "We also still stand for rewarding hard work and entrepreneurial risk. I reportedly once said that New Labour has no problem with people becoming very rich, as long as they pay their taxes.

"The New Labour principle still stands: we will only tax out of need, not out of envy or spite."

At prime minister's questions earlier, Mr Cameron criticised government plans for record borrowing and asked the prime minister: "Isn't the real lesson from the pre-Budget report this: The country is going bankrupt, he's been found out and New Labour's dead?"



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