Tory leadership contender Michael Gove has said it is “insane” to have policies skewed towards the wealthy, before calling rival Boris Johnson’s tax proposal “mistaken”.
The Environment Secretary said candidates should be judged on their qualities in office and not on their backgrounds, as he fended off further questions about his past cocaine use.
His fellow Brexiteer Mr Johnson, the current front-runner in the race to become prime minister, has pledged a tax cut for workers earning over £50,000.
Being interviewed on Tuesday, Mr Gove said: “You can come from my own background but if your priorities seem to be skewed towards the already fortunate in society that’s insane.”
Pressed at The Times CEO Summit on whether he was discussing Mr Johnson’s tax proposals, Mr Gove was received with laughter when he replied: “I wasn’t thinking of any one particular candidate, but I do think his tax proposals are mistaken.
“I think that there are two tests that I would apply to any tax cut. Does it par economic growth and does it help the most disadvantaged in our society?
“A tax cut that concentrates on helping the wealthiest pensioners most of all is not a tax cut which either improves productivity or generates a greater level of social equity.”
But he said he had changed his mind since the last Conservative leadership race when he said Mr Johnson lacked the necessary leadership skills.
Asked if Mr Johnson has the focus, discipline and judgment, Mr Gove said: “Well, we will find out during this race.
“Boris was a great mayor of London, it was enjoyable working with him as a foreign secretary and he now has the opportunity to set out his stall and to be judged, as all the candidates will be, on the basis of his ideas and policies.”
Mr Gove warned Tories that the party will lose a general election if they do not deliver the result of the EU referendum.
“There’s no way a Conservative Party leader can win a general election if Brexit is not delivered,” he said.
He ruled out doing any deal with Nigel Farage’s insurgent Brexit Party, before he was questioned further about his admission that he took cocaine in the 1990s.
Asked what led him to take the class A drug, he replied: “We are all sinners in a fallen world.”
He remained resilient at a suggestion he had been damaged by the fallout and, asked whether he would stand aside in his bid for Number 10, bluntly answered: “No.”