In many ways, this question is not about the substance of report (although
I’ll agree, it can hardly be ignored) but to do with the man. Did he have
stature, gravitas, authority? Did he look like he knew what he was doing? Answer
that and we’ll know whether we can put our trust in him.
Well, the answer is, er, difficult.
OK, there was that whole thing about stealing the Tories clothes, which, in a
way, is politically unforgivable. But perhaps it would be more unforgivable to
ignore a popular idea for the sake of not looking like your opponents.
Which brings me to my point. The balance of criticism for Darling after his
first PBR is really about presentation not whether the policies/tax measures
were worth it.
Can we forgive him that? Yes and no (sorry for hedging). A senior tax adviser
has told Accountancy Age that inheritance tax, the big vote winner from the PBR,
was actually on the agenda for last March’s Budget it just got shelved, as it
slipped down a lengthy list of priorities.
That would therefore enable Darling, or his master, to reinstate it as
policy, once it looked like the Tories would steal the glory, without having to
lie about it being their idea.
But it still looks like a bungle and for a profession that likes attention to
detail, straight talking and relies on reputation, reputation, reputation, it’s
a bungle that’s difficult to forget for a while at least.
But Darling is playing to the general public, they will forget. They will
probably only remember the policy, not who had the idea first, which is why the
Tories are really annoyed.
Gavin Hinks is editor of Accountancy Age
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