Tuesday, 4 January 2011

VAT rise - ConDems progressively more duplicitous

We know that Messrs Osborne and Cameron intended to de-toxify the Tory brand when they assumed control of the party in 2005.  Cameron made several brazen attempts to park himself on areas of policy which were former no-go areas for the Tories, such as the environment (huskies and "Vote Blue, Go Green") and liberal law and order policy (hug a hoodie) and  to name but two.  These and other stunts succeeded to some extent in showing that he was a new kind of Tory leader.  Unlike Tony Blair's efforts to reform the Labour Party in the early 1990s however, there was little substance behind the style.  This has been borne out by events since the financial crisis, which was God's gift to a Tory party ideologically intent on stripping back the state and ushering in the 'age of austerity'.  

Cameron's PR background gave him a good grounding.  He realised that if the Tories were to win back power, they must appear to be in the centre-ground of politics.  His advisers were willing to go to almost any lengths to show this, hence we were treated to the fallacy of the claim at the General Election that the Conservatives were the "party of the NHS".  All this spinning happened while the Tories were in opposition.  Such dissembling is harder to pull off in Government.  Now they're in in power and taking the 'tough' decisions which they'd salivated about for years, they wish to continue applying the formula of airbrushing and PhotoShopping their policies to make them sound progressive.  Hence the claim, repeated ad infinitum by the Chancellor that "we're all in this together", and that the measures in his Budget and the Spending Review were "progressive".   As the IFS pointed out, the CSR was not progressive, yet it remains convenient, from a PR perspective, to continue to make such dubious claims.  

So we read today that the Chancellor, with breathtaking chutzpah, has described the VAT rise as "progressive".  VAT affects lower income earners disproportionately.  Fact. Therefore, a VAT rise is not progressive, it is regressive.  To suggest so is to stretch the truth almost to the point of destruction.  

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