Monday, March 23, 2009

Ken Clarke: Concede It's a Gaffe And Move On

This ongoing story about Ken Clarke's remarks on Inheritance Tax on the Politics Show yesterday illustrates two things.

1. The importance of every front bencher being fully up to speed on all aspects of party policy
2. That if you don't kill off a story immediately, don't be surprised if it gathers pace

When I heard Ken's interview yesterday I remember thinking, 'hmmm, that isn't exactly the line to take'. Within a very short time it was a story on the 24 hour news channels, with Labour weighing in for good measure. I suspect this was not a case of Ken having any great disagreement over the Inheritance Tax policy, I suspect it is more that he wasn't up to speed on the detail of it - i.e. the fact that it wasn't merely an aspiration, but a commitment. There are worse crimes.

By the time the clarifying statement was issued later in the day, it was too late. Even though the Telegraph carries it in its front page lead today, the headline still reads that the policy is under threat.

The leadership was right to reassert that they remain fully committed to upping the threshhold within a Parliament. It would be utter madness to renege on it and send out entirely the wrong message. They key in all of this is that it is a costed commitment. It's not a tax cut as such, as there will be compensating revenue. As I am sure that by now Ken Clarke knows too!

Some people will use this to justify their view that Ken Clarke is a loose cannon and shouldn't have been brought back. Rubbish. Whatever short term embarrassment this saga dumps on the party is more than compensated for by the fact that he's become one the Party's big stars over the past few weeks.

Let's just conceded it was a minor gaffe, and move on.

58 comments:

The Penguin said...

More of a gaffe is Phil "Custard Pie" Woolas and his claims of a new detention centre for illegal immigrants in Calais.

The Penguin

Colin said...

What a non story. If it wasn't for the Labour party spokesmen at the BBC, this "story" would have been stillborn.

Once again, the BBC swallowing hook, line, sinker and fishing rod; the views / instructions of Mandelson.

Thomas said...

This episode shows how the online media creates a story out of nothing. What I took Ken to be saying was that the Party's main priority on taking office would be to sort out the public finances mess bequeathed by this Labour Government. By comparison, the inheritance tax changes would be peripheral. I think most people would agree that fixing our public finances should be the first priority of a Conservative Government.

With Labour MPs bonking in their offices, and claiming dubious expenses, and former ministers in the Lords not declaring important vested interests, you would have thought the press would focus on the real misdemeanours of those in power rather than agonising over the precise words used by the Shadow Business Secretary.

Simon said...

Don't think he's a loose canon - that's Rowan Williams

Jonathan Cook said...

Labour seem adept at 'spinning bad news' as a positive. Maybe once in a while, the Conservatives should try the same.

Ken should organise a mini press conference and make a full 'apology' for causing confusion regarding Tory policy.

An apology from Ken would throw the spotlight back on Brown and his lack of apology.

I'm no fan of spin, but the Tories have to counter the BBC effect somehow (John Redwood's blog on this subject is revealing)

http://www.johnredwoodsdiary.com/2009/03/23/tax-cuts-for-the-many/

The Yorkshire Terrorist said...

It's a bullshit policy anyway. It only benefits the very rich, yet from the way its being reported its a major policy that will benefit everyone. Utter dross.

davidc said...

i am with thomas on this and the way things are going there will be precious little of monetary value to inherit.

trevorsden said...

its not a bullshit policy it affects a lot of ordinary people. the fall in house prices makes it less pressing.

BTW - anyone care to volunteer the loss in stamp duty taxation to the govt? It shows its not always a good idea to nail your colours to the mast of something so volatile.

And Ken has confirmed its a non story. Read by comment on previous thread.

Oldrightie said...

It really does highlight the undemocratic nature of The UK and our media. I had a rant last week. When you consider the criminal and immoral nature of Labour and their cronies and this minnow of a piece gets this mileage.
Disgraceful.

http://oldrightie.blogspot.com/2009/03/uk-media-failing.

Bill Quango MP said...

Totally agree with Colin. for the first time ever I was persuaded to comment on Biased BBC.
News 24 knocked off the Ascension of St Jade to give this top billing.
Meanwhile the expenses story, was a single line after the cricket.

This has changed today so assume it was a junior Nu Labour hopeful editing the news yesterday

Simon Gardner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon Gardner said...

trevorsden said... “And Ken has confirmed its a non story.”

Oh - so that’s all right then. Does the pope shit in the woods?

Of course it’s a damn story. Not least it’s a weak Shadow Chancellor/forceful ex-Chancellor story.

This was an accident just waiting to happen. And it won’t be the last.

And enough already of the usual utterly bogus claims about the BBC. It’s been all over Sky News and all over the papers.

Face it, it’s a big political story.

Frankly, I’m surprised how much this morning’s Grauniad has played it down. I’d have given it more space.

Tom said...

This is just weird wordplay - it's nothing next to the actual scandals his opposite number has got himself into during his first few months in office!

Stooge said...

Why has the Telegraph been so quick to further the BBC and Mandelson propaganda? Their headlines get more bizarre by the day.
Incidentally Iain it's loose cannon - unless Ken has become to embody ecclesiastical law.
Come to think of it though, he'd make a good bishop!

Martin Day said...

This is a nonsense story - lets focus on the fact that Labour have messed up the economy that badly that folk like me out of work are baying for Labour's electoral blood.

What Clarke said was within the realms of David Cameron's speech in that debt management was the priority. IHT is a fiscal change not a priority. The priority must be to make this country a fiscally conservative nation again.

To those Tories who wish to cave into Labour bullying - more fool you! Labour have already put you in hock for the rest of your lives and probably the next generation as well.

The sythe of electoral justice needs to be directed at finishing off the Labour beast. Don't be destracted in your contempt for the socialist emasculation of the economy that stiffiles your wealth.

Unsworth said...

Interesting too, that McNulty's clear subversion and rip-off of the taxpayer was repeatedly buried under the wall-to-wall Jade Goody mawkishness followed by the Ken Clarke 'news'. Let's not forget that McNulty is a sworn Minister of State - as his colleague Jacqui Smith - who seems to regard it as acceptable to manipulate 'rules' for his own personal gain. Integrity? You bet!

What is obvious to anyone with half a brain is that the economic landscape now a barren wasteland. Brown's disastrous policies and deliberate scorched earth actions have ruined the country. It's quite clear that whichever government comes to power it will be faced with unprecedented and terrifying government borrowing (i.e. profligate spending of our money).

That has all happened post Osborne's speech. It would have been unthinkable at that time that we would be where we now are.

I believe it will be at least five years before we see any beginnings of a return to what we have come to regard as normality - if ever. The new normality is massive debt, huge reductions in public services, and staggering declines in living standards. In the interim we are in for very tough times. Things will only get worse for the forseable future.

Never mind IHT. The question is what will there be to inherit after this 'Government'?

Daily Referendum said...

Sorry Iain, but I disagree. Clarke is a liability, when Cameron brought back Clarke he handed Mandelson a wedge. From now until the Euro elections the word "split" will replace "global" as Brown's favourite word.

The man is a raving Europhile and is probably the least loyal Conservative MP when it comes to voting in the house. This term Clarke has voted against the party at a rate of almost one vote in ten.

Simon Gardner said...

Just caught Sky News and the row appears to be the 2nd item in the running order. Hardly a non-story, then.

Conand said...

The Ken story proves that Labour are finished. Cameron will make a brilliant speech on the economy. It might even get reported on by the BBC.

Lola said...

I heard it. KC seemed to me to simply not emphasise enough that all tax issues, including IHT, were a hostage to Labours disasterous stewardship of the economy and until the full horror of their failure could be assessed it was irresponsible to promise any tax cuts.

The BBC spun and spun and spun it. It was as disgraceful a piece of sided, politcally sided, reporting as I have ever heard.

Mark Senior said...

Ken Clarke should have realised that however bad the economic prospects , the Conservative Party's priority will always be to give hundreds of thousands of pounds to a few thousand rich people including Cameron and Osborne themselves .

Desperate Dan said...

Worse embarrassment is in store after that little twerp Duncan has decided to go round suggesting that expenses should be scrapped as a separate sum and incorporated into MPs' even more gigantic salaries. This is a willful misunderstanding of what disgusts the electorate about the unjustifiably huge wads of cash MPs award themselves.

Newmania said...

Oh come on Iain how can it be costed when revenues are falling through the floor .Ken Clarke told the truth we cannot afford this tax cut much as I like it and Cameron should say so. We need tax cuts on spending money \nd the word has chnaged since Osbournes speech , I do not see the problem
He should also say we cannot afford a full fat Public Sector .

On the other hand I am quite certain that unless Cameron is clear on who the lower tax Party is ovcerall he risks losing the next GE.

Newmania said...

PS Iain the electoral boost from this came from projections on house price rises.

Thats gone too and I bet focus groups have told him its now a vote loser

Newmania said...

PS Iain the electoral boost from this came from projections on house price rises.

Thats gone too and I bet focus groups have told him its now a vote loser

Ruth@VS said...

I saw this interview yesterday and thought at the time that someone would take it out of context and spin it.

I'm a floating voter, disenchanted by the politicians I see on TV, but I do like Ken Clarke - he has personality and what he said in totality was common sense. It's rather hilarious that Labour tried to suggest the tories weren't being honest about their tax policies - talk about pot calling kettle black!

Magical_Mist said...

Yes this story is a waste of time (not your post, Iain). Anyone who heard or read what Ken said would have completely understood that the plan wasn't being scrapped, but that it simply isn't going to be of "Day One" priority.

I saw this covered on Sky News and I have to say that the reporter, Joey Jones, gave a fair assessment.
Only managed to catch the end of the BBC but it looked to be the same as the Sky reporting.

Jimmy said...

It's the inevitable consequence of bringing back a heavyweight and expecting him to play second fiddle to a lightweight. He's plainly in the wrong party.

Magical_Mist said...

"Oh come on Iain how can it be costed when revenues are falling through the floor .Ken Clarke told the truth we cannot afford this tax cut much as I like it and Cameron should say so. We need tax cuts on spending money \nd the word has chnaged since Osbournes speech , I do not see the problem
He should also say we cannot afford a full fat Public Sector ."

If the Tories were to go back on this pledge it would p**s off far too many people, myself included. Far too high risk. It must be kept.

moorlandhunter said...

It was a gaffe and he rightly coughed to it.
I’ve just seen the BBC news and seen a Labour plebe stating that the Tories are in disarray over this and that the ending of Inheritance Tax will mean that only the rich (3%) of the UK population will benefit if the tax is cut to £1miilion. Is this man completely stupid or what? I know of many people who live in houses that are close to the £1 million mark in and around London. Add this total to any savings and it will mean that more than 3% of the population will benefit from this ending this awful tax that hammers many ordinary people and the people who have saved and been careful with their money.
The Labour plebe was not taken to task for his comments but as it was on the BBC, it comes as no surprise that his comments were just allowed to go unchallenged.

Lola said...

Mark Senior @ 12.21. Your comment does not help the debate - it's just tribal.

Facts are (1) Gordon has screwed the economy owing to a combination of profligacy with other peoples money based on massive hikes in taxation and a structurally useless and overweening financial regulatory system that was doomed to fail and did. He also completely lost control of the money supply.

The Tories - assuming that thye get in next - will have to sort out this mess. Brown won't as doing so would require reversal of all his policies which quite undersatndably he won't countenance.

Tax cuts and the companion governewmnt spending cuts are required. Whichever way you cut it the State spends (badly) far too much of our money. We are living above our means.

And although you will not concered this cutting taxes increases wealth creation, and wealth creation is what ned to pay off Brown abject failure.

Cutting IHT is part of this. It will help many middling wealthy to keep their capital. This capital will be used to reapy debt, or to invest in long term savings or to spend. It may be used to start businesses. It will not be destroyed by being spent by the state. It will not 'help a few thousand rich people' and even if it did that is likely to have a more beneficial effect on wealth creation than the State appropriating it and spending it.

I am not Tory, but I support low taxes and small state, because history shows that this benefits all of us - rich and poor alike - the best.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

This is a genuine story. A firm commitment on tax, which arguably triggered Gordon Brown's decision to call off the election, has now been back-burnered.

It's no use putting out a 'correction'. The horse has bolted.

Thousands of floating voters are now thinking, 'They're all the same. You can't believe a word they say. They must think we're stupid, etc., etc.'

It also reinforces the view that Ken Clarke is an amiable part-timer who can't be bothered to do his homework.

Conand said...

I agree entirely with Ruth@VS@12:41

'It's rather hilarious that Labour tried to suggest the tories weren't being honest about their tax policies - talk about pot calling kettle black!'

Absolutely hits the nail on the head. Labour have consistently lied about levels of taxation and borrowing for years. Let's give that fact blanket media coverage.
Even the BBC could run it as it might bury all the other appalling stories about Labour that have been around for weeks on end.

Underscore said...

Can we imagine for a moment that the tables were turned and Mandelson did something similar?

You wouldn't be calling for everyone to calm down and get over it then, you hypocrite.

Iain Dale said...

Excuse me, just point out where I have said that it was unfair or Labour to pile in on this. Of course they did. it's what politicians do.

Simon Gardner said...

Underscore said... “Can we imagine... ...Mandelson did something similar?”

I can’t imagine it. He’s too much of a pro.

Robert said...

It may be a non story to all the Tory boys, but ask yourselves this: if the Tories are not the party of lower taxes what are they?

What is the party policy on the 45% (or higher) tax for high earners?

What is the Tory policy on Europe. You cannot have a stop on further integration, Europe does not work like that. Cameron knows this as do most of his MP's. So what is the policy? Go with the flow? Get us out of Europe? Say nothing and hope the electorate won't mention Europe?

What is the policy on the Public Sector when the Private sector is being crucified by tax and job losses? Is it right that private sector taxes will pay for gold plated public sector pensions? Private sector wages are dropping whilst Public sector wages continue to increase.

If the Conservative do not start to address these and other public concerns soon and communicate with the electorate what will be the point of voting for them?

I voted for UKIP at the last Euro election. It might be BNP at the next. On the basis of what we hear from the Conservatives now it will not be Conservative at the next General Election and I live in a Labour marginal.

I will vote Conservative when Cameron gives me reason to support them.

ChrisC said...

Cut inheritance tax.
Raise income tax.

Right.
So for someone like me who is a reasonably high earner from a modest background - how is that an incentive to vote Tory??

Mark Senior said...

Lola , I can't help laughing at your post , You accuse me of a tribal comment which does not help the debate and follow it with a long screed of tribal comments . You say you are not a Tory - well what are you then rearrange the letters of the word aril .

Conand said...

'I can’t imagine it. He’s too much of a pro.'

Such a pro he got sacked from the government twice and then shunted to that eternal home for failed European ministers: the European Commission.

Man in a Shed said...

Its a bit of a gaff. But it may serve a useful purpose. Its suddenly made it very difficult for Darling to try and issue a tax cut in his budget funded by borrowing or supplied by the printing presses.

It may have made the economy that we inherit just a little less of a train wreck than it would otherwise be.

Clarke needs to get with the program, but equally at least he seems to understand the scale of the disaster Labour have dropped us into.

PS As noted elsewhere - the BBC is yet again shown in its true colours.

Jimmy said...

It's a gift. Tory policy is now to raise tax on earned income and simultaneously cut it for unearned income. And just as a bonus the presumptive Chancellor is a trustafarian. The "piling on" hasn't even started. Clarke is the only one capable of grasping this.

Conand said...

It's a gift. The Conservatives have been shown to be striving for a balance between fairer taxation than Labour and the need to pay off Labour's enormous debt bubble.
The Do Nothing Government is striving for a few good headlines while it piles on more debt and fails to take effective action to lessen the effects of the recession.

David Lindsay said...

Inheritance Tax is already paid almost exclusively by people who vote Tory anyway, most of them resident in safe Tory seats.

So why did the Tories ever go anywhere near it?

neil craig said...

I think Lester is being very optimistic if he thinks that because the budget given to them is £71 million they are likely to hace spent less. Normal experience suggests that government goes over budget a lot more often than they come in under.

That means over 25 years it would be, infaltion adjusted, about £2 billion or virtually the whole of the smaller of the 2 aircraft carriers we are building. I'll agree that that is not that good an investment either since they will be obselete before they are finished. Or it would give us a Moonbase. Or 83 km of automated overhead monorail at international prices http://www.swedetrack.com/eflwa14.htm#2
though probably nearer 8.3 at UK prices. Or 3 nuclear power stations, again at international prices.

Incidentally £70 million is not 0.00007% of our £1 trillion debt it would be 0.00007 or 0.007% but this is mixing the apples of total debt with the oranges of annual debt. It is 0.04% of the £180 billion annual deficit Labour is running up this year. That Labour supporters don't believe in making even such small sacrifices explains exactly why we have that deficit.

I wonder if Trevor Philips would have his job if it had been allocated without racial discrimination. (Well OK I don't)

Lola said...

Mark Senior - you clearly have a problem understanding the difference between a 'tribal' comment -

"the Conservative Party's priority will always be to give hundreds of thousands of pounds to a few thousand rich people including Cameron and Osborne themselves", which you posted and what I posted In an attempt at an analysis. I am not Tory, so how can I be tribal? I am simply totally and utterly fed up with the uselessness of all sides of politics, at the moment. And what I can also be is totally pissed off with comments that add nothing to the debate but just shout nah nah type remarks. Fact is Brown has totally buggered things up. Fact is that the Tories look like getting in. It is therefore going to be necessary for them to do the stuff that creates wealth rather than destroys it - the opposite to what Brown has done. If those policies include tax cuts, which in my view they do, then so be it. And if one of the 'best' taxes to cut is IHT then fine, do so. I really do not give a stuff if a few rich people benefit disproportionately (which they won't) if we all get better off as a result (which we will).

So, argue with me, but do not post childish nah nah type comments. It is just pathetic.

Twig said...

The BBC is a parasitical fifth column. It worries me that DC doesn't seem to recognise this; or is he just biding his time?

The Grim Reaper said...

It's at times like this that the media hacks me off. Whenever anyone says something that is remotely different to the party line, they pick up on it and say there must be a huge rift in the party. It's extremely annoying.

So Ken Clarke said it was now an "aspiration". So what? In case the people in Medialand haven't noticed, we're in the middle of a massive recession at the moment. Millions have been made unemployed, the Government is utterly incompetent and hardly anyone seems to have a clue what to do about it. But that's far too difficult to report on, so we'll just take the easy option instead. I can only conclude the press enjoys lazy Sundays.

Simon Gardner said...

David Cameron [16-3-09]: “The BBC is one of our most important institutions. It plays a vital role in bringing us together.”

David Cameron [16-3-09]: “The BBC is an important national institution. I want to see it prosper and succeed and be a fantastic cultural asset. I am a supporter of the BBC. I am a supporter of the licence fee. I think the licence fee can go on.”

Me said...

I'm no fan of Clarke but the BBC did their usual in making the story out to be a lot bigger than it was. They actually led with it on the headlines on Breakfast at 8.30 this morning - anything to make the Tories look bad. The BBC news team is just one large band of Labour supporters. How do they get away with it?!

Peter said...

Things will never run smoothly in politics, at least not when the BBC is around, but think back a few years these gaffe stories came thick and fast. So we must give credit to the Conservatives.

DespairingLiberal said...

Nice bit of spin Iain - "just a minor gaffe" - hoo hoo hoo.

Obviously this was raised deliberately as part of a campaign by Cameron to soften expectations. We can expect more in the future - shadow cabinet member (a) will say such and such a tax-cutting policy or spending-increase is not going to work and then the actual shadow cabinet member responsible will deny it. So that when Cameron comes in he can say there was always doubt and these things take time and anyway Ken was right all along.

What this piece by Iain does illustrate though beyond any doubt now is that Iain Dale is not the independent-minded "hardly even a proper Tory" character he so frequently claims to be. I am personally quite convinced that this morning's spin by Iain was worked out with HQ and is perfectly in line with their approach.

Also note that Iain did not even comment on this until under pressure to do so, as with many of the other "independent" Right-wing bloggers and bloggettes.

DespairingLiberal said...

Me - do you remember Ken Clarke being brought in as a heavily-trailed and much publicized (by Tory HQ) "big beast" whose merest prognostications would attract national attention? Well, they have. Now you want to shoot the messenger.

Changing the subject, did anyone see the news last night that the Daily Mail's days are numbered? When that rag finally closes will be the happiest day of many people's lives, particularly all those who see it's mouthing off endlessly repeated by brainless blog contributors.

Simon Gardner said...

DespairingLiberal said... “Do you remember Ken Clarke being brought in as a heavily-trailed and much publicized (by Tory HQ) "big beast" whose merest prognostications would attract national attention? Well, they have. Now you want to shoot the messenger.”

Exactly so. Ken Clarke is a bigger personality than the rest of the shadow cabinet combined. Of course what he says will be noticed and examined. After all, he was supposed to be a match for the stellar Mandy.

“Did anyone see the news last night that the Daily Mail's days are numbered?”

AFAIK this was all about the Mail Group’s local papers only. Local papers all over the country are in serious trouble with the flight of much advertising to specialist sites on the net and the disappearance of most property ads completely for obvious reasons.

But note also How we can save newspapers? - Indie March 20.

And Local newspapers under threat from the Guardian March 21.

The Observer Business & Media section [22-3-09] Presses to grind to a halt as print passes its sell-by date.

I am on record as predicting ALL serious national papers and very many local newspapers will go under inside 20 years.

Clearly we aren’t talking about the Daily “Hoorah for the Blackshirts” Mail here.

Iain Dale said...

Despairing Liberal, you are wrong on every count. No doubt "HQ" as you call it would have rather I said nothing at all. No one forced me to write anything. Seeing as they haven't conceded it was a gaffe I also suspect they probably won't like what I have written.

Did you read my 45p tax piece last week? If you had, you couldn't possibly have written what you have.

Pathetic comment by you. As usual.

Hannibal King said...

It is a shame that the Cameron/Clarke Downfall video has been taken off of you tube...

bet it set the tone prefectly for the stand off at the highest levels..

Gavin said...

reposted it hannibal! appears the original was taken down asap by some eagle eyed watcher

have to say its an utter pile of excrement but it has the split cast right.

cameron will rue the day he brought back the dinosaurs... has he never seen jurassic park!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9RF-amxnOY

Unsworth said...

@ David Lindsay

"Inheritance Tax is already paid almost exclusively by people who vote Tory anyway, most of them resident in safe Tory seats."

Any evidence for this complete bollox? Any IR Stats to back this?