Dominic Lawson, former Editor of The Sunday Telegraph, has written an excellent article in this morning’s Independent in favour of Lord Forsyth’s Tax Reform Commission. It’s behind the Indy’s subscription wall so you’ll have to buy a copy of the newspaper to read Mr Lawson’s whole argument.
"In his characteristically good-humoured way George Osborne recently chided me for something I wrote about him in this column. I had argued that he was talking nonsense when he claimed that Margaret Thatcher "did not promise tax cuts" in the 1979 election manifesto. The shadow Chancellor insisted that there had indeed been no cast-iron pledge to cut the overall tax burden in Thatcher’s first manifesto as Conservative leader, and that he had considered asking Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson to back him up on this.
So in the same friendly spirit I now draw George’s attention to the following letter in the most recent issue of The Spectator: "Pressed to promise tax cuts during the recent Conservative Party Conference, both Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne were anxious to point out that Margaret Thatcher didn’t promise tax cuts in 1979. What the 1979 Conservative Manifesto actually said was ‘We shall cut income tax at all levels to reward hard work, responsibility and success.’ I hope we can now take it that the same non-promise will feature in the next Conservative manifesto. Yours sincerely, Nigel Lawson."
Nevertheless, George Osborne, David Cameron and Francis Maude, the Tory party chairman, have continued, if only in this matter, to follow Josef Goebbels’ dictum that if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
This particular porky is not for the benefit of the people as a whole. It is designed only to appease traditional Conservatives who have grown increasingly restless at the absence of any tax-cutting agenda on the part of the new leadership of their party; but such Tories would need to be not so much traditional as senile, to fall for this peculiarly shameless rewriting of history."
First is Jeremy Warner’s piece noting that the parties are becoming very difficult to differentiate on tax:
"If tax is no longer a defining political issue, you have to wonder what is. Competence, I guess, is what it now comes down to. Which party and which leader does the electorate most trust to run the country competently? It is hardly an alluring choice."
Second is former Tory MP Michael Brown’s warning:
"But the question is not whether the country can afford tax cuts.
The country can no longer afford to pay the taxes demanded by
government from the population. Britain’s tax burden is growing faster
than that of any other European country, with middle-class taxpayers
working nearly half the year for the state. Failure to reduce, simplify
and make fairer the burden and collection of taxes is actually reducing
economic activity, lowering economic growth – and even reducing the
total amount of revenue collected."