Polishing the pledge


Some Conservative Party advisors are determined not to repeat the tax cut pledges which they see as having counted against them in previous campaigns.  Afraid that Labour will accuse them of threatening funds for essential services, they are pledged instead to match Labour spending, even Labour's proposed spending levels.

It is time to revisit that pledge and polish it.  Times have changed, and polls show the country is now ready for tax cuts – not the fiddling around with the detail of tax credits, or some vastly complicated scheme that allows write-offs for selected businesses, but clear and visible tax cuts that people can understand.  John Key in New Zealand announced the dates on which he would cut people's taxes.  Barack Obama gave a ringing promise to cut the taxes of 95 percent of Americans.  Both won.

The Conservatives  can finesse the charge of threatening essential services by promising to match Labour on health and education, and make the savings elsewhere.  Many people might welcome a guarantee that no schools or hospitals would be closed without being replaced, but would not really mind if government spent less on five-a-day officers, real nappy officers, diversity officers and the like.  In fact during a recession, the chances are high that many people might prefer to spend such funds for themselves, thinking they could do it more wisely.

The mantra of matching Labour spending looks folly now that Labour have been exposed as spendthrifts, with consequences for all of us.  The mantra of no tax cuts looks silly now that people are demanding them and both Labour and Liberal parties are promising them.  Rather than refighting the last war on a totally altered battlefield, the Conservatives should revisit their tax pledge and polish it to reflect changed times.