TaxPersonal TaxThe corridors of power …

The corridors of power ...

Politicians may go misty-eyed at general elections about 'the vision thing' and patriotism and what the prime minister refers to as 'the big picture'. But what the average voter is really concerned with is how much money he will have in his pocket after tax.

And it should be the party that offers lower taxes and is prepared to make big, bold cuts in public services and bureaucracy which is the most attractive.

That is why it seems odd that the Conservative promises on taxation seem to have had so little effect on the electorate. Despite their best efforts, the Tories have failed to impact on their opinion poll ratings.

But their policy on cutting public spending by Pounds 8bn was not helped by the alleged claim by Oliver Letwin, the shadow chief secretary, that Tories, in power would slash public spending by Pounds 20bn – a figure quickly denied by Mr Hague and shadow chancellor, Michael Portillo.

Even so the Tories believe they can slash billions off the soft-under-belly of public institutions without people feeling ill effects. Labour, of course, says this is impossible.

But there have been further setbacks to the Tories’ taxation stance when the issue of VAT was raised. Both Mr Hague and Mr Portillo were unhappy the question was even asked, because they were unable to rule out extending VAT if they are in power after 7 June – an unlikely scenario.

But neither has Labour been entirely forthcoming about its plans. Gordon Brown has been strangely equivocal when the question of what the Tories call stealth taxes has been raised. Labour has been unable to rule out higher NICs.

The performance on taxation by both parties during this campaign has been unconvincing. The fact of the matter is that politicians don’t want to make commitments which they may be forced to break, even reluctantly, once they are in power.

As is often said about general elections: when all is said and done, a lot more will be said than ever is done.

  • Chris Moncrieff is a senior political analyst at PA News.

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