Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tories stuffed on tax

Andrew Rawnsley writes a very authoritative article in the Observer today entitled: Tory taxidermy - how to get yourself stuffed over tax.

He argues that Cameron has made a major mistake by setting up all his policy commissions. As they are closely alligned to and associated with him, the public will take their prognostications to be Tory policy or, if Cameron disassociates himself with their output, see the Tories as divided:

The Conservatives have just committed what could be their first serious blunder under David Cameron: they have suggested what they might do in government.

...How idiotic for them to hand over ammunition to Gordon Brown for him to load into his formidable guns. That is precisely what the Conservatives did last week when they published a 176-page document listing tax cuts amounting to more than £20bn. Years away from the next election, we now have detailed Tory proposals on everything from personal allowances to corporation tax to research and development reliefs, presented as if they were the first-term plans of the next Conservative government.

...A lot of voters will simply conclude that the Conservatives are divided, confused and can't make their policies add up.

...The media are certainly not going to oblige the Conservatives by treating the work of their policy commissions as if they were merely the musings of some think-tank. Newspapers reported the commission's recommendations with pieces about 'winners and losers', as if Mr Osborne had just presented his first budget.

...The idea of these commissions was that they would buy time for the Tory leader. What they are doing is storing up big trouble.

We are led to believe that, under Cameron, the Tories are being very clever, like Blair was in the run-up to victory 1997. But, as Rawnsley reminds us, one of the biggest planks of the Blair pre-97 project was a ruthless control of policy output from the Labour party. No policy musings with spending attached were allowed out into the public domain without the strict approval of Brown.
In sharp contrast, Cameron has set himself up for a sort of death by a thousand commission proposals.

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