Ruling out a VAT rise is only news if you’re a Tory

Labour's pledge on VAT received a yawn from the Tory press, but Cameron's 'yes' is everywhere


When is a party pledge on VAT rates newsworthy and when is it not? It seems for some newspapers, that’s an easy question to answer: it depends on which party.

The Tory papers ran big stories today about David Cameron’s ruling out a rise in VAT after being challenged by Ed Miliband at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions. The Times said the move ‘spiked Labour’s guns’ and left the Labour party leader ‘floundering’, while the Sun said the ‘hammer blow’ to Labour saw Miliband ‘visably wobble’.

The Telegraph plastered the story on its front page (‘Cameron’s pledge to freeze VAT’) followed by a triumphant leader column.

But when shadow chancellor Ed Balls said on Tuesday that Labour would not raise VAT if elected in May, the Tory press all but ignored it. No big stories, no comment or analysis, just an atmosphere of tumble weed rolling by.

The Times, Daily Mail and Sun all ran tiny pieces, (the latter two attacking Labour’s plans for other taxes), that mention the pledge on VAT. But that was about it.


One exception was bankers’ freesheet City AM, which ran the story on its front page, but this makes the lack of interest in the other papers all the more notable.

So a one-word answer from the Tories on VAT receives generous coverage, but an earlier policy pledge from Labour receives a collective yawn. So it goes.

To re-phrase the old philosophy thought-experiment: If a politician rules out a VAT rise in a forest, and no Tory papers want to cover it, does he make a sound?

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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