I aspire to make this the last ToryDiary post on tax for a few days but I make no promises! There is a leader in one of today’s newspapers that makes some very interesting points on tax. Here are a few quotations from it:
"’In this world, nothing can be said to be certain,’ Benjamin Franklin
famously noted, ‘except death and taxes.’ He might have added that few
things upset voters more than taxes on death."
"The Tory strategy is more sophisticated than just bribing the middle class."
"Labour is vulnerable to the charge that billions of pounds have not
been prudently spent. Meanwhile, the tax system has become needlessly
complicated. Tax credits are poorly understood and mismanaged. Millions
have been paid out by mistake."
"The Prime Minister knows that families on average incomes are starting
to feel overtaxed. That is why he tried a sleight of hand in his last
budget as Chancellor, cutting the basic rate by 2p only to recoup the
"Meanwhile, higher interest rates have driven up mortgage payments,
draining money from households’ disposable income. Those are the
circumstances that make voters look at their pay slips and quibble over
the deductions made by the state."
"The unwritten contract between the citizen and the state is up for
negotiation again. That doesn’t necessarily mean taxes should be lower,
but it does mean the system should be fairer and more transparent.
Failure to deliver that is something from which Mr Brown cannot hide."
Where did that leader appear? The Sunday Telegraph? The Sunday Times? The Mail on Sunday? No, no, no, as a great lady once said. It appears in The Observer. It’s quite something when the left-leaners at The Observer understand that the tax burden is really beginning to hurt people. I was on the panel for Radio 4’s Any Questions on Friday night and former Blair adviser Matthew Taylor came within a whisker of admitting to me that we were at a tipping point on the debate on tax.
George Osborne writes for this morning’s Mail on Sunday and promises to champion "the ‘strivers’ in life". Good. There is no big shift in policy from the Shadow Chancellor but in the article he appears to be adopting a slightly stronger tax-cutting attitude:
"As Conservatives, we want to reduce taxes over time, but I’ve made it
clear that any immediate reforms would have to be paid for with
corresponding tax increases elsewhere, so that public finances remain
safe We won’t propose any changes which jeopardise the stability of the economy, or take money from important public services. But I understand how inheritance tax is fast becoming an unfair
tax on aspiration, so I want to make sure that the next Conservative
Government is ready to help the millions of families striving hard to
provide a better life for their children and who have had such a raw
deal from this Labour Government."