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« Editorial: Finally, finally, David Davis rises to the occasion | Main | Editorial: David Cameron on the back foot on tax »



Danny Finklestein, you may be right when you say "I don't think it is remotely sensible... to start defining the size of a tax cut now. Cameron is right to be articulating the principle without going further. You call this "vague". I think it is merely sane." But nothing else so far got Cameron to articulate where he stands even in principle. As the FT points out today, his carefully worded formula could stretch to the policies of David Davis or the policies of Gordon Brown.

To say "tax cuts and radical public sector reform are not, as traditionally argued by Tories, essential companions but actually, in the first parliament, contradictory" is hugely inaccurate. All of the evidence is that lower tax rates increase revenue, allowing taxes to come down and so make our economy more competitive, and spending to increase to pay for radical public sector reform. By the way, does he also think it is too much trouble for Cameron to tell us whether he favours radical public service reform, or opposes it?

Danny says "we must must must make sure the Tory agenda addresses the issues on people's minds. The right thing is to develop the arguments without putting a figure on it." That's fine but the problems of 2005 are slow growth and failing public services. We may need to change our emphasis as the situation develops (both growth and public services may be worse in 2009) but we also need to have something relevant to say about the situation people in Britain face now. It is bizarre for Danny and others supporting Cameron to say the Tories should be more relevant to people's lives except where David Cameron's leadership campaign is concerned.

Danny says "So the more I think about it the worst Davis's gambit seems to me to be." but someone has to take the lead in getting Cameron and his supporters to say what their plans are. Davis's gambit at least has got some of them--Oliver Letwin and Stephen Dorrell-- talking. Perhaps now we can be told Cameron's views on public service reform, or even reform of the Conservative Party.

Over the course of three Tory defeats there have been longstanding well articulated policies, and there have been policies shaped just before election time. And there has been no progress in share of the vote. If you add up their experience, David Cameron and Danny Finklestein have had their hand in a fair share of both--in 1997, 2001 and 2005. It is one thing to come down on one side of that judgement. But it is quite another to say to the Conservative Party: vote for me but it is not your business to know my plans to reform the party and the country. That is the old Toryism, not the new.

In 1994, Tony Blair kept quiet about his plans because he knew his party would not like them. Cameron is running for election in a party in which a majority believes in greater diversity of candidates, lower taxes and public service reform. If he can't provide even broad-brush details (eg an incoming Tory government will need a tax cut if the economy is slow or in recession, or the principle of education vouchers is the right one) what are members supposed to think?


Neither Davis or Cameron should be concentrating on the details of tax cuts, I would much rather see which one of them can most convincingly make the case to the voters that low taxes, low regulation, small government etc. are good for the economy and in particular those who are less well off. We need a leader who can change voters opinions, not just follow the focus groups. As of yet neither candidate has impressed me.


Rob makes a very good point. Both candidates need to show they can lead public opinion as opposed to merely follow it. The polls show some encouraging signs on people's attitude to tax and public service reform. But Britain lacks a high-profile leader who can articulate those concerns. People asking questions of David Cameron do not want detailed, costed policies. They just want to know the direction he wants to take. Does he believe a recession or sluggish growth means we should offer tax cuts? Does he believe government funding should follow parents' choices in education? Does he believe the UK can learn from the greater private sector provision in other European countries that don't have waiting lists?

David Cameron should by all means keep his powder dry when it comes to policy specifics. But surely five years into the twenty-first century the members and MPs whom he would expect to support him with loyalty and hard work during the next parliament have a right to know what kind of Conservative he is, and how he would go about persuading non-Conservatives of that case. Mentioning one discredited Tory policy (patients' passports) and a couple of Labour ones the Tories have opposed (tuition fees and road pricing) is useful to know but hardly answers to the big questions of British politics. Whatever the shortcomings of Davis's tactics, at least we know his basic philosophy. The Tories have taken too many wrong turns over the past 12 years to write a blank cheque now. We need to have a strong idea of the choices our new leader will make when confronted with the conflicting options that are the stuff of politics, and the narrative with which he'll explain the country's problems.

Cutting taxes win elections

DD's key point is that the case for cutting taxes and attacking Labour for needlessly wasting taxpayers money has to be made now and consistently. After 8, and potentially 13 years of Labour's stealth taxes this should be a basic premise for all Tories.

As DD says, its not that we should cut taxes, its that we don't have any choice if the UK wants to stay competitive, and I get increasingly worried that DC, possibly in contrast to his campaign manager, doesn't agree to this.


I will tell you what is on my mind.
1. Our projected pension is less than half of what was
predicted 10 years ago thanks to Gordon Brown's £5bn
+ pa and the failings of the stock market. What is
going to be done about that?
2. Our Council Tax has risen by 110% since 1996,
income by about 25%. A fair amount of this is to pay
guaranteed pensions and early retirement for public
service employees that we can never aspire to now.
Who is going to so something about that injustice?
3. Thanks to fiscal drag we are pulled into a 40% tax
band and are worse off now, also seems likely that,
for the same reason, we will end up with an
inheritance tax problem on a house we have lived in
for years and never expected to face on a very
average house. What will either contestant do about
4. What will be done about the unfair devolution
settlement where Scottish MPs can vote on purely
English matters, what are the candidates views on
5. As things stand we are going to end up with not
enough to live on in comfort, despite years of
saving, but just too much to get any help at all
despite years of contributions. Who will help?
When I hear the answers to these questions I will decide who to vote for. I have been for Davis but could be swayed.


Editor I understand that Davis wanting to take action to combat those challenges and he is right to do so in the way that he is suggesting.


Putting figures to those aspirations is ludicrous these numbers will become a noose around his neck if he becomes leader and Gordan Brown will twitch the rope whenever it suits him.


Tax cuts aren't all that important - no really they aren't.

After public services have been improved, public transport is reliable, national security is stronger and we are successfully treating "Britain's Broken Society" then come back and tell me about tax cuts. I'd much rather hear that the new leader will spend my tax wisely and just not increase it.


Michael, your point is clever, and up to a point I agree - "I want to be part of policy development, the detail. If Davis is setting out rules and figures, then the Party wont have a role to play in developing those detailed policies." But on that basis leadership candidates needn't have any views at all! We need to know where someone stands on the crucial issues, don't we?

AnotherNick - who says "Tax cuts aren't all that important - no really they aren't" - it's fair enough if that's what you think, and if that's what DC thinks it's fine too. But if that's what he means, I'd like to hear him say it, and now not later. A very definsible position, but what is NOT defensible is to say, or imply, "you don't need to know my real views on any of the big issues facing this country. Just trust me and my wonderfully young and talented team."

I think, in a sense, tax is THE issue along with security because it goes to the foundation of what government is about: deciding on the allocation of resources, running the economy, ensuring the future wealth of the country which allows all the other important things - like public services - to be paid for. Tax is not secondary. Have we really been so cowed? Are we so terrified of our principles that we will toss them out with such abandon?

Al G

Can the debate not be more directed against Brown than against the other candidate?

Afterall, it is Brown's tax increases and Labour's abject failure to justify them with improved public services that leads one to posit that tax is too high in the UK and needs to be reduced... responsibly of course.

If we accept that tax is too high, which I am pretty sure the majority of us do, then what harm in showing how you intend to do it? If the method is the same and the maths different, Davis would still reduce the tax burden.

At least we now have something to hold Davis to account to on tax. If his plans are desirable and possible, which I think they are, what more can he do? If he falls on this sword, then I say, at least he had a sword to fall on.

Clever (cunning?) as Cameron may be on this, he seems unprepared to commit to improving the tax system. For me that is very, very weak.

I want to see tax reduced, so do lots of voters. I would hate to go into the next election without the certainty of tax cuts, bullishly argued for by a leader we know is committed to them.

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