The week political opportunism replaced Tory fiscal hawkishness

This week has been dominated by Conservatives blocking three Labour tax rises and introducing two new tax cuts. They are not committed to fiscal responsibility.

This week has been a manic one in the political world. Both parties have been jostling around for prime position as they prepare for the official start of the election campaign. The most significant manoeuvrings have come from the Conservatives on tax policy.

In the months leading up to the election, the Tories have sought to burnish their fiscally hawkish credentials and champion themselves as the ‘undertakers’ of Britain’s record public-sector deficit.  However, this week during the critical legislative ‘wash-up’ in parliament, those ambitions were abandoned in favour of a more naked political self-interest.

Due to Tory blocking tactics, Labour was forced to drop three targeted tax increases aimed at addressing the deficit and investing in Britain’s infrastructural future. A planned 10 per cent rise in tax on cider was removed from the finance bill in addition to a proposed plan to end tax relief on furnished property lettings. This was a strange move considering the Tory party is apparently committed to tackling the fiscal deficit faster and deeper than Labour. We all know that if taxes have to be levied, it is socially more productive to target them at so called ‘harms’.

More worryingly though, was the pressure exerted on the government to abandon the so called super-fast broadband tax, a 50p a month levy on home telephone connections, without setting out an alternative way forward. Although there are some flaws in the plan, this policy would have helped fund  universal next-generation broadband and provided an important investment in Britain’s digital economy. The new economy will be built around high-tech and bio-science technologies; super-fast broadband will form the arteries of that. There is now a £175 million funding gap that will supposedly be met by the Tories should they win election, from the BBC digital switchover fund, without harming regional news broadcasting. Not only does this place at risk our media and digital sectors, but fails to appreciate the surest way any country can tackle a deficit in the year’s ahead-job creation and growth in the digital economy.

All this is in addition to Conservative plans to reverse planned National Insurance rises from April 2011, which will be funded by £6 billion worth of efficiency savings, described previously by David Cameron as a “trick“. And the fact that these efficiency savings are not being directed towards reducing the deficit (apparently their number one priority) has prompted serious concerns by experts on the necessary levels of public sector cuts in subsequent years:

“using the bulk of these spending cuts to finance the NI cut means that they are not available to contribute to the task of reducing government borrowing that the Conservatives have set such store by. Reducing the deficit more quickly than the Government plans to will therefore require even greater cuts to public services spending, or to greater reliance on welfare cuts or tax increases that might be as economically costly as the NI increases they are seeking to mitigate.”

The Tories yesterday announced another tax break which will divert resources, this time from a bank levy, away from fiscal consolidation. Political opportunism appears to have taken the ascendancy in the Conservative party.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

14 Responses to “The week political opportunism replaced Tory fiscal hawkishness”

  1. Gail Cartmail

    RT @leftfootfwd: The week political opportunism replaced Tory fiscal hawkishness http://bit.ly/boZrzT

  2. Leonie Prekker of GM

    RT @leftfootfwd: The week political opportunism replaced Tory fiscal hawkishness http://bit.ly/boZrzT

  3. Les Crompton

    RT @leftfootfwd: The week political opportunism replaced Tory fiscal hawkishness http://bit.ly/boZrzT

  4. Kevin McKeever

    RT @leftfootfwd: The week political opportunism replaced Tory fiscal hawkishness http://bit.ly/boZrzT

  5. topsy_top20k

    The week political opportunism replaced Tory fiscal hawkishness http://bit.ly/boZrzT

  6. AndyG

    RT @leftfootfwd The week political opportunism replaced Tory fiscal hawkishness http://bit.ly/boZrzT

  7. Paul Evans

    The week political opportunism replaced Tory fiscal hawkishness http://bit.ly/9RY92y <<< wobbles, eh?

  8. Silent Hunter

    A planned 10 per cent rise in tax on cider was removed from the finance bill

    Yeah, nice try! . . . but as you well know, it was only removed because the Tories were able to make such a good play on it and it was incredibly unpopular with the voters in the west country Labour marginals.

    It was removed because Labour realised that they had just pissed off a group of people that they wanted to vote for them.

    Keep digging guys – see if you can find something positive that Labour actually has to say.

  9. Mr. Sensible

    Silent Hunter, the tax increase was removed, as the writer says, because otherwise the bill would not have got through.

    This post is 100% correct; the Tories talk tough on the debt but then anounce these tax giveaways primarily for the rich.

  10. Silent Hunter

    So Mr Sensible; care to elucidate on Labours latest Cancer Campaign?

    That’s a vote winner! . . . But only amongst the uncaring, garbage trawling scum that pass themselves off as labour Campaign Managers.

    Let’s see you defend that piece of Labours campaign literature.

    Labour – The Nasty Party since 1997.

    I should think anyone with cancer or who has been affected by it will simply look at this latest appalling leaflet from Labour with disbelief and disgust.

    You guys are really scraping the barrel with this.

  11. Robert

    @Silent Hunter

    With regard to cancer treatment, my mother and cousin developed bowel cancer in the early 1990’s. We paid to speed up my mother’s diagnosis and treatment. She is still alive. My cousin’s family did not and he died.

    I have several relatives and friends whose diagnosis and cancer treatment under a Labour government with its investment in the NHS has prolonged their lives.

    What Labour is saying is that an incoming Tory government would not prioritise the diagnosis and treatment of the folk in my circle who are now in remission. So they would be forced either to go private, as my mother did under John Major, or take pot luck and die.

    It’s pure tribal self interest for folk who have a family cancer history to vote Labour.

    No apology for that.

  12. Anon E Mouse

    This reversal of the proposed NI increase is not a tax cut by the Tories.

    It is simply not implementing an unfair tax on jobs. I wish people would stop saying Labour or the Tories are going to give people this or that…

    Governments don’t have any money – they just take more or less of ours.

  13. Mr. Sensible

    Silent Hunter, maybe Labour could have framed it better, but I think there’s something to the substance.

    The Tories want to leave everything to the professionals, and create a postcode lotary.

Leave a Reply