Michael Gove writes in his second blog:
"It’s…necessary for those who are putting a specific figure on tax cuts now to tell us what precise level of Government borrowing they envisage in four years time, what proportion of Government spending they would allocate to debt repayment, and what then would be left for tax cuts or public spending."
This is a reference to the DD tax package.
DD has made specific tax proposals – to cut tax by the equivalent of £1200 a year for the average family. He’s also set out ideas which would probably incur more public spending – such as, for example, his manifesto plans to increase school choice. David Cameron has also made specific tax proposals – such as, for example, his commitment to introduce tax breaks for marriage, childcare and social action zones. And he too has set out ideas which would probably incur more public spending – such as, for example, his manifesto plans to improve Britains’s science base.
So if Michael’s thinking is to be applied consistently, it’s necessary for David Cameron, as well as DD, to tell us (since he’s serious about the tax pledges he’s made) what precise level of Government borrowing he envisages in four years time, what proportion of Government spending he would allocate to debt repayment, and what then would be left for tax cuts or public spending. If money is to be made available to improve Britain’s science base, does that mean a rate of growth in the science budget faster than other departments? If so, which will be cut to make up for that? The schools budget? But what about the commitment to invest in education?
Fortunately for both Davids, there’s a way round the problem – namely, to strike the right balance between vision and detail. DD has set out a specific tax package. He’s also set out a growth rule to explain how it would be delivered. David Cameron has also made some tax pledges. I expect that he will soon provide a growth rule equivalent of his own – perhaps in his forthcoming CPS lecture. At this stage, that’s the right balance. In other words, each David needs an A-Z to show us where he’s going. Neither needs an ordnance survey map.
The key difference between the two isn’t what direction to travel in. It’s when to start the journey. Michael provides a different figure of speech to illustrate the same point. He writes:
“The Conservative Party has, in the past, acted as thought it believed a policy on tax was an effective substitute for a policy on the economy overall. That’s like trying to win a football match by fielding only one player. Even if he’s Wayne Rooney he can’t do it on his own.”
This is right. The party needs eleven players, not one. But if tax cuts are our Wayne Rooney, the question is: when should they be out on the pitch? During the last two elections, our tax pledges came late. They came off the substitute’s bench, so to speak, only five minutes or so before the final whistle. DD believes that they should be on the pitch right from the start – and stay on for the full 90 minutes. This must be right. Even Wayne Rooney needs time to score the winning goal.