Tories would ‘save up’ tax cuts

March 17, 2008 at 1:49 pm | Posted in British Politics, Conservative Party, David Cameron, New Labour | Leave a comment
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For the past two elections, Labour had the Conservatives caught in a masterful political trap: if you want to slash taxes, they said, you’ll have to slash spending, and if you’re going to slash spending, you’re going to starve our schools and hospitals of the money they need to save lives, or give kids the best education possible. The argument evoked images of crumbling schools, hospitals with 12-month waiting lists and a beds shortage that left patients lying, unattended, in corridors. Though the argument alone didn’t win these elections – the Tories were being led by reactionary weasels who stoked fears about immigration in the hope that some random bigot might decide to vote for once – it was still one they didn’t have an answer for.

But you can only use a winning argument so many times before it loses its power to persuade; the Conservatives have been much wiser in how they attack Labour’s spending, sniping about the amount that’s wasted to bureaucracy and pointing out that for all the billons our government receives from tax payers, it still can’t stop them from losing the personal details of millions. Now, not only has the ‘tax cuts = spending cuts’ meme lost its power, but the Tories are already innoculating themselves against it:

Senior Conservatives have said they would not be able to offer immediate tax cuts if they won the next election. Tory leader David Cameron told the BBC’s Politics Show that tax cuts would be impossible at first because Labour had “left the cupboard bare”.

[…]

Mr Cameron said: “We have to recognise as an opposition that if we win the next election, it will be tough and there will not be some large kitty of money to spend and we will have to say no a lot, as well as hopefully being able to say yes to some of the things we want to do.”

He’s being disingenuous, of course – the guiding principle of Conservative government is saying ‘no’ and stopping the government from doing things. Still, it’s a very smart move; not only do they neuter New Labour’s attack that Tory tax cuts will equal big spending cuts, but they also hold out the hope of allowing tax cuts in their second term, if the conditions allow. In one deft move, he’s placated his base and reassured those in the centre. I miss the good old days when the party was ruled by idiots…

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