Tuesday 22 June 2010

Osborne's dishonesty as history repeats itself on VAT

"Tories 'can reduce the deficit without a rise in VAT'"

That was the Daily Telegraph headline on April 6th as the election campaign began, reporting George Osborne's commitment that he had deficit reduction plans which did not require any VAT increase.

Osborne said:

“The plans we set out involved around 80 per cent of the work coming from spending restraint and about 20 per cent from tax increases... The tax increases are already in place, the plans do not include an increase in VAT.”

Nothing significant has changed in Osborne's knowledge of the public finances (though he has made a significant number of discretionary tax cuts today).

Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome told us that it was a significant commitment.

This is a significant commitment from the Shadow Chancellor. Labour hope to scare voters with the threat of a large VAT increase if the Tories win. Cameron and Osborne have attempted to strangle this attack at birth.

In fact, history was repeating itself with this dishonest campaign pledge, as George Osborne showed that he was a student of the 'legendary Geoffrey Howe dodge on VAT.

The former Chancellor rejected the idea that it was misleading to state that “we have absolutely no intention of doubling VAT” during the 1979 campaign.

Howe wrote in his memoirs, somehow keeping a straight face, that:

"We had no difficulty denying it. For there was no prospect, on even the most gloomy of expectations, of our having to go beyond a rate of 15 per cent. Some critics afterwards thought it pedantically misleading to rest our case on the fact that twice 8 per cent (the then basic rate) was 16 and not 15 per cent ..."

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