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"If there’s a problem with the economy then the country can’t afford tax cuts.” So says George Osborne.

This attitude is very dissapointing. It moves the party closer to the other two main parties on tax than even when John Major was leader, who was prepared to cut taxes in a recession. If this line sticks for four years we will not have anything to offer the country if, as many suspect, there are many problems with the economy.

James Hellyer

It is disappointing, and makes one wonder how Osborne would propose to get us out of a recession. If tax cuts are a no-no, then what would be on offer? Greater government spending?

This interview also seems to indicate a worrying acceptance of the status quo. There is a huge amount of fat on the government's payroll, and all that does is cost money from the taxpayer and thus limit growth.


I think it is indicative of an insufficiently thought out approach to opposition. Simply looking and sounding "moderate" by rejecting any controversial policy is not the answer. In times of trouble, people look to the opposition to have convincing answers. When those are absent, as with Labour in 1992, the results can be surprising.

We have defeated incumbent governments three times since 1945. Each time we offered tax cuts, not despite the fact that the economy was weak but because of it. More recently than 1979, other centre-right parties, including in the US and Australia, have done the same.

Increasing the rewards for work, saving and investing by lowering tax helps everyone in society and often results in increased revenue, which is needed to pay for better public services, including their reform.

If we go into a general election with no tax cut proposals and milk-and-water policies to change health and education, we will lose, and we will deserve to lose. We need to make the case for change between now and the general election not run away from the difficult decisions that will be necessary if we are to turn our economy and our public services around.

Sean Fear

I think that Martin Kettle's advice is well-meant, but it seems to be pretty much a rehash of the Bagehot column in the Economist i.e. New Labour's basically a good thing, and the Conservatives have got to be as much like New Labour as possible.

The type of Conservative Party that would be attractive to Martin Kettle would be repulsive to me.

Sean Fear

"If there’s a problem with the economy then the country can’t afford tax cuts.” So says George Osborne."

That seems to be a reversion to the economic orthodoxy of the 1920s. Cutting tax rates in a recession is actually quite a sensible thing to do.


"If there’s a problem with the economy then the country can’t afford tax cuts.” So says George Osborne."

Oh dear, who have we just handed the party over to?


How odd that only a few days ago everyone seemed to be saying that offering tax cuts was "irresponsible", and that the sensible thing to do was be vague and say nothing controversial. Now it looks as though we are about to reject the rash "tax cutting agenda" we are already beginning to have doubts. A week is indeed a long time in politics!

John Hustings

Having seen George Osbourne "perform" in the Commons a few times, I have not yet failed to wince. Cameron's only chance of not appearing lightweight himself would have been to surround himself with more experienced campaigners; but with Osborne as his number 2, it will simply look like "Noddy Toy Town" politics.

I don't know where Osborne's shining reputation came from (especially the totally bizarre plaudits he received for his conference speech), but the generosity won't last: he's going to become an embarrassment (especially when he tries to appear "tough" -- it just isn't convincing).

Sean Fear

Comments about "the country can't afford tax cuts" suggest the sort of person who (subconsciously) believes that what we earn is really the government's, and we only get to keep what the government can afford to give us.

"Oh dear, who have we just handed the party over to?"

Well, they weren't quite as explicit as this while it was still possible to get your ballot in on time, but what he says today is consistent with the "share the proceeds of growth" formula.

"A problem in the economy"=no tax cuts.

James Maskell

Ill be watching Osborne on Monday and Im reckoning that Osborne wont perform. This is one of his biggest tests if not the biggest test he has faced. I think he will be unable to make it stick against Brown. Im thinking Cameron vs Ruth Kelly job here. Cameron could really have given her a really tough time but he shot blanks. Osborne I fear will do worse. Brown wants that premiership and the best way to get it is to show Osborne what frontline politics is like.

I would like to see Osborne fight him and knock Brown down for size but is it really on the cards? I think not.


Can't William Hague be persuaded to be Shadow Chancellor?

James Maskell

He has said he wants to finish his book and do other outside work. He'd rather do Foreign Sec I remember reading. If only Hague could be Shadow Chancellor, what a battle that would be!

Alastair Matlock

Apparently not now, as it would impede current business arrangements as well as the publication of his upcoming book on Wilberforce. Disappointing, I know but perhaps the change will be possible in the future.

I suppose that since we have still to find another 10% of the electorate to back us, not to mention at least 140 seats for a working majority, it is unlikely in the extreme that we will be having only one more Shadow Chancellor.


That seems to be a reversion to the economic orthodoxy of the 1920s. Cutting tax rates in a recession is actually quite a sensible thing to do.

Posted by: Sean Fear | 03 December 2005 at 15:02

Where's the "recession" ?


There is a big credibility problem for us if we say we can't cut taxes if there is a problem in an economy. We need to advocate them to be convincing about dealing with the economy's weakness:

These are The Economist growth predictions for 2006:

Latvia 6.5%
Estonia 6.4%
Russia 5.5%
Lithuania 5.4%
Ireland 4.7%
Czech Republic 4.4%
Poland 4.1%
United States 2.9%
Australia 2.9%
Canada 2.7%
New Zealand 2.2%
UK 1.9%
France 1.7%
Germany 1.6%
Italy 1.1%

Unless we get tax cuts our economy won't grow faster, and will sink to the stagnant state of the European economies. We will also fail to grow the revenues we need for our public services. Rejecting tax cuts in the face of a weak economy is a philosophical wrong turn and a political mistake because it will leave us with nothing substantial with which to counter Gordon Brown.


Sorry, by "European" I mean the go-slow euro core.

Jack Stone

We have tryed to offer tax cuts to gain support at the last two elections and it as failed because people have thought that those cuts will be at the expense of spending on public services.
We need to be far more clever than we have been in the past. We must sell tax cuts not just as part of a wider economic policy but as a simplification of the tax system.
We should sell tax cuts as tax reform and we must make it plain that public services will come first.
We will not get re-elected unless we regain peoples trust to run public services.Thankfully I think the new leadership will understand that.

James Hellyer

"We have tryed to offer tax cuts to gain support at the last two elections and it as failed because people have thought that those cuts will be at the expense of spending on public services"

I dispute this. In 2001, I don't think we could have won the election even is a Nazerene was leading the party!

The case for tax cuts was never made with conviction by our dire Shadow Chancellor, and it seems stange to abandon this policy because of the inevitable defeat at that election.

In 2005, we offered a bad tax policy which we sold badly. The "cuts" were not ones that would generate growth (i.e. income and corportation tax cuts), and were poorly explained by being characterised in terms of billions rather than rates (as Reagan showed that's the way to explain them).

So it seems odd to now damn a policy because Portillo and Letwin did a bad job.


The pattern is clear. Cameron will be a 'what? me?' type of leader like TB, while his proconsuls will act as the battering rams. Hague to take out the EPP. Osborne to savage Gordon and his disasterous waste of our once virtuous economy.

Can't wait to see who else is due for a good kicking. Fox, IDS, Davis - get your teeth sharpened. Battle is about to commence. Babyface Cameron will be the silent executioner. Perfect. Just how we like it. No blood on his hands. But murder his business - the political variety, of course.

fantasy shadow cabinet

Top posts should at least be offered to Liam Fox and David Davis, who showed they have important constituencies of support in the party. If William Hague (who also enjoys much support in the party) is to be Shadow Foreign Secretary, then Liam Fox should be Shadow Chancellor and David Davis Shadow Home Secretary


"We have tryed (sp.) to offer tax cuts to gain support at the last two elections and it as failed because people have thought that those cuts will be at the expense of spending on public services."

We offered the prospect of tax cuts with very little conviction and a very bad track record in 1997, 2001 and 2005, and lost. Indeed, we did it with so little conviction in 2005 that only 3% of the public thought we would deliver tax cuts. And as has been pointed out, Portillo and Letwin were hardly enthusiastic proponents of tax cuts. The former had Hague's tax guarantee publicly dumped while the latter ensured no one dared mention tax cuts--let alone argue for them--until just before the election.

We promised them with conviction in 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992 (and with a good track record of keeping tax promises in those last three). The public was less convinced of the case for reform of the public services in those elections but we won with an average vote share higher than that of New Labour.

Tell us Jack, how do the Republicans in the USA or the Liberal Party in Australia, or Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats in Ireland get elected when they offer tax cuts? What about the former communist countries where the consensus about the responsibilities of the state to provide public services are for more entrenched than in the UK? Tell us why Britain is the only place where a centre-right party can't talk about this (leaving aside for a moment your historically inaccurate view that tax cut promises lose elections)?

stupid argument about tax

We went into the last three elections with the same health and education spending plans as Labour, that was obviously a big election loser so we should dump it.


I do not think it is a good idea to change policy on the basis of winning the election. One should change policy on the fundamentals of benefiting and progressing the country.

How you deliver these policies to the public can make the difference between making a good policy sound bad and vice versa.

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