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How blue is the Coalition? Part One: The economy

By Paul Goodman

This is the first post in a five-part series asking: in practice, how Conservative is the Coalition?  In doing so, I'll examine its work under the same headings that Tory backbench committees follow, risk a very brief comparison with the Thatcher and Major Governments, and give a mark out of ten for "blueness".  It goes almost without saying that my view on what a Conservative view or policy is won't be everyone's.

HowBlue Economic Affairs

The foundation of the Government's economic policy is deep blue: namely, its plan to pay off the deficit in a single Parliament.  The Liberal Democrats have executed a public U-turn on their election view that such a strategy would cause a double-dip recession.  The scrapping of Labour's job tax, the Corporation Tax simplification, the start of a quango cull, the tax cut for poorer workers, the proposed red tape reductions and regulation sunset clauses - all will help to build a stronger economy.

Other Coalition tax moves, however, suggest that if the Government's blue on spending it's orange-flavoured on tax.  Capital Gains Tax is up by 10%.  The Conservative manifesto inheritance tax cut's been shelved and the marriage tax cut postponed.  Nothing's now to be heard of the Party's former view that the 50p rate shouldn't be a permanent feature of the tax system.  Fiscal drag will take more taxpayers into the 40p band.  Vince Cable's stance on banking is a negative presence at Business.

I would none the less mark the Coalition high on the economy to date.  The ambition of Osborne's deficit reduction strategy is bold and brave, and to my mind outweighs the Government's strategic failure to form a growth strategy for tax.

Conservative credentials: 7/10

To date, the Coalition's economic plan is far more convincing than that of John Major's Government pre-Black Wednesday, and its single-minded focus on eliminating the deficit reminiscent of Thatcher's early determination to salvage the British economy.


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