HAS George Osborne given up on the “proceeds of growth” approach to tax cuts? He promised today to freeze council tax for two years but also not to cut taxes elsewhere. The council tax freeze would be paid for, implausibly, by a cut in government advertising and consultants. So why no tax cuts?
“The cupboard is bare”, he tells delegates. But does that mean he has no confidence that his own party’s economic policies will deliver the growth needed to fund public services and cut taxes, as has been promised by ‘Dave’ on a number of occasions?
Seven years ago, Labour’s 2001 intake of MPs began the practice of Monday evening dinners, occasionally inviting senior members of the government to lead a discussion. In 2002, we decided to invite members of the Tories’ 2001 intake to join us for a bite and a chat. The only two to take us up on the offer were George Osborne and Paul Goodman.
The annoying thing is that, although we all got on reasonably well, we were all so guarded in our comments (despite the agreement on Chatham House rules) that no-one really said very much of import. Still, I remember being impressed that both George and Paul were willing to risk the wrath of their whips by being seen publicly fraternizing with the enemy (indeed, word is that they were both subsequently given a stern talking to about the company they were keeping).
I don’t know if this means GO is a man ready to take risks, or willing to listen to others’ points of view, or if it just means he didn’t have anyone else to dine with that evening. But on the strength of his commitments so far this week, he’s hardly giving the faithful gathered in Birmingham what they want to hear.