‘Against the 1%’: Occupy movement reaches the Commons

By Ian Dunt

The rhetoric of the Occupy protest movement reached the Commons today, after Ed Miliband used PMQs to attack the "top one per cent".

The use of the phrase, which was first popularised by demonstrators at Occupy Wall Street before being used across the world, came in a decidedly left-wing session.

In a surprising development, David Cameron said the Archbishop of Canterbury "spoke for the country" in an article this morning which criticised income inequality and called for a tax on financial transactions.

The article was widely interpreted as a sign of a decidedly leftward shift from the CHurch of England in the wake of the Occupy London protesters camped out outside St Pauls.

The prime minister and the leader of the opposition jostled to appear more left wing than one another throughout the questions, with each highlighting what they had done to challenge high pay in the boardroom.

Mr Cameron stressed the coalition's implementation of a bank levy, increased non-dom fees and action being taken against those with untaxed funds in Swiss bank accounts.

Mr Miliband emphasised Labour's decision to implement a 50p top rate of income tax.

"He says we're all in it together but he lets the top one per cent get away with it while the other 99% see their incomes squeezed and lose their jobs," the Labour leader said.

Mr Cameron later issued a call for more women in the boardroom, criticising the "usual rotating lists of men patting each other's back" as non-executive directors.

But the prime minister refused to budge from the government line on a financial transaction tax.

When Green party leader Caroline Lucas asked him to support calls for a Robin Hood tax, Mr Cameron reverted to the standard government line that it could only be implemented multilaterally.

The Treasury opposes efforts to implement the tax at the European Union level, claiming it would disproportionately affect the City.

A private letter from George Osborne to the banks suggests the chancellor is looking for ways to avoid the tax altogether, however.

"For all his warm words in public about backing an international financial transactions tax, we now know the chancellor is giving the banks nods and winks in private that he wouldn't support one – even if it is agreed internationally," shadow Treasury minister Chris Leslie said.