Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tories, Tax and Today

I'm on my way to Cardiff to deliver a lecture on new media to media studies post graduate students and have been listening to Today on Radio 4. Their news headlines at 7pm illustrates why some on the Right feel that there is an underlying bias against the Conservatives. The headline on the Forsyth Tax Commission was...

"Ministers have reacted to the Conservative Tax Commission proposals, saying that..."

What sort of new judgement is that? Why put Labour's reaction to a report ahead of the contents of the report itself? I'd love the person who wrote that news report to justify it.

I have just been listening to George Osborne on the programme and he has made it clear he has no intention of cutting the overall tax burden. As Jim Naughtie said, he is determined to follow the path set out by Gordon Brown in opposition and repeatedly chant a mantra about stability and protecting mortgages. We can't just refight the battles of the 1990s - we've got to inspire. And as I have said before, merely saying you're going to mirror Labour's tax and spend levels isn't going to inspire anyone to get out of bed on a wet Thursday and go down to a polling station.


Johnny Norfolk said...

You know it makes me sick just how biased the BBC is. Why do they get away with it. It was the same on Newsnight last night. No proper discussion just condemnation. Then you read this morning about the wasted money by the CPS. our money. That in itself would pay half the rural post office sudsidy.
Reduce tax to the less well off, it will be a vote winner.

Anonymous said...

As a life long Conservative voter I have to agree with what you say,people need to be inspired and just pretending to be Labour just wont do it.

I want the State off my back and I want to pay less tax,just like the really rich!

I want to see Her Majesty,s Opposition OPPOSE!! and fight this dreadful and corrupt Government and not just copy it!!

I have a postal vote and next time round I just might vote UKIP or throw it in the bin.Stuff you all.

Anonymous said...

Tax cutting is the key to Conservative success at the next election.George clearly said this morning NO CUTS and this will not inspire grassroot tories or the business fraternity.
The Cameroonies are going nowhere!
As a Businessman I can tell you that the Economy is going South at the moment and I predict 5 million out of work in the next 3 YEARS at a rapid rate of momentum.House prices are about to crash 40% parallel with the economy.The years of Blair will go down as the POLITICAL YEARS OF DELUSION.

Liam Murray said...

Frustrations with the BBC aside there's an angle here that the Conservatives will have to tackle at some point before the next election.

I haven't red it all but here's a quote from the Exec summary of the Forsyth report:

"Even assuming that there was no impact on economic growth whatsoever (an assumption which the Commission rejects whole-heartedly), the total “cost” to the
Exchequer of implementing almost all these proposals is around £21 billion...(this) represents only around 1.5 per cent of GDP and compares with GDP trend growth rates of 2.5 per cent a year (which
compounds to over 10.5 per cent growth over a four year parliament.)

This goes to the heart of the debate around 'when is a cut not a cut'. These proposals are about not spending as much taxpayers money in the future as the government plans to at the moment - only the most underhand semantic trickery allows that to be described as a cut.

If this goes unchallenged then Labour will always be able to make exorbitant promises of future investment (normally no more thoroughly 'costed' than our proposals) and then cry 'Tory cuts' if we don't promise to match them penny-for-penny.

Party politics aside it's been a stroke of genius on Blair / Brown's part to bring this situation about. Let's hope there's sufficient talent in Cameron's team to find a way out of this semantic trap.

strapworld said...

If, Iain, you call 'inspiration' copying the Labour Party failures then I am at a loss.

Margaret Thatcher and her policies, continued by Major in the main,created the scenario for the Labour Party to have the economic stability to go unto win three general election successes.

Why the Conservative Party cannot show some 'inspiration' and shout from the hilltops WE ARE DIFFERENT...and this is what we represent.

But No! we are left with a party nobody knows just what or who they stand for.Are they the Green Party? the Lib Dems or New Labour Lite?

Come on Iain, I realise that you have to tow the line ( I have noticed that my recent attempts have not been published because they show my real contempt for the Party Chairman) BUT the TORIES
have been the most succesful political party in our times and we will be returned to power ONLY when we do show real inspiration and that can come by sticking to old values.

Anonymous said...

House prices are at their highest valuations and interest rates are very low (there's a link), so when that wet Thursday comes, alot of people will vote for someone who's not going to change things too much.

Of course, Gordon Brown's convinced many, including BBC hacks, that tax cuts are irresponsible. Up to Osbourne and Co. to tell us otherwise, how it's sensible to pay down the government debt.

Anonymous said...

Young George lacks FORESIGHT!

Anonymous said...

It's sad, but the current Tory 'followership' seem to be following in the footsteps of The Monkees, the Beatles look alike group, who were set up by PR spivs and spinners in the sixties with a view to cashing in on the Beatles' success.

At least they had the sense to ape a successful act. Who in their right mind would think that apeing BLiar&Co would lead on to fortune?

I wouldn't be surprised if sometime soon a real life 'Mrs Pritchard' were to appear on the scene and sweep all before her.

Anonymous said...

Dear Iain

Sie haben recht

This Government is very good at concealing unemployment, but real levels of unemployment are rising steadily

Taxation & Regulation levels must be reduced because they are killing British Jobs

Your obedient servant etc

G Eagle

Anonymous said...

The Sun has it right-"Why vote Tory"?

Serf said...

We have to simplify taxes. The best single item in the report is transferable tax allowances, which will enable families to make work decisions based on their individual needs, not on the tax system.

Anonymous said...

You hit on the head Iain, its the inspiration factor, PMQ yesterday was dismal, Blair should have been reeling over Iraq/Dannatt, only Ming Campbell appeared to have any fire in his belly about the issue. Cameron could not lay a glove on Blair, he dismissed the question about military hospitals and was in full control of the house. NuLab is fighting over ground that they know they are secure on on Tax. Secure funding for the NHS,and more importantly address all of the issues raised by' Doctor Crippen' and take out Inheritance Tax, then the Tories are on a level playing field. Then it is an issue of perception. The mantra of 'Government money' must stop, it is our 'Tax Pounds' and this must be rammed in over and over again.

Anonymous said...

Agreed- the BBC bias engine is on full spin to the left over the tax proposals. On the 6 o'clock news last night their reporter did a vox pop on a high street in essex where she asked people to choose between the environment, tax cuts and the NHS. This gave an economically false impression of what tax cuts mean and did Labour's job of smearing the Tories for them.

That said, Osborne has hardly been helping himself. Starting from a position of self-admitted weakness (by publicly fretting about the possibility that some of the cuts could be unfunded) is like starting a speech "Firstly, I apologise that I know nothing about this topic and I do have a tendency to spit when talking loudly" and expecting the audience to be on side thereon in.

Anonymous said...

Agreed completely about aping labours tax and spend policies, and getting dragged into a tit for tat tax spend round...bloody stupid when people know the wastage is massive.

Hint, hint and hint again, and let the public think they know what you are going to do, and just deny the nastier aspects of what they think they know.

I say again, as I have said many times here and elsewhere...make a commitment to either scrap or REFORM the BBC and watch the arseholes there start to come round as they scurry to a job they think may be safe. Scrap the licence fee for a start and gain a million there is radical, and a no-lose situation.

BondWoman said...

It's a pro-government, pro-status quo bias. For sixteen years between 1979 and 1997, a labour supporter would have said exactly the same about the BBC.

Anonymous said...

I was amused by BBC 1 Breakfast news this morning. In their round-up of newspaper headlines, they held up the Daily Mail, discussed the Punch n Judy carton about Macca and Heather but somehow managed to completely ignore the glaring headline below "Tories urge £21 billion tax cuts"

Nice to know that they have their priorities right

Agree with you on tax Iain. Think Cameron and Osborne need to understand the public no longer equates tax cuts with cuts in public services. We're all groaning under the burden labour has imposed - the first person to find some balls and say "enough is enough" will win plenty votes

Its got to the stage where I find UKIP attractive simply cos of their tax policy

Anonymous said...

Anyone who had to live and work through the 1970s, especially the second half, will identify with "stability". Cameron`s desire for a low mortgage is a valid proxy for low inflation. High inflation will dwarf the benefits of any tax cuts. He is pushed off that ground at his electoral peril.

As for Balls/Brown attack on the Tax Commission proposals consider this. Take any Brown budget statement to the Hoc and compare it with the reality revealed in the detailed tax proposals and press releases that follow. He (they) cannot be relied on to give a straight description of their own tax proposals. Obviously they will distort and misrepresent the Opposition`s. They should be dismissed as such. Far better for the Tories to use the Commission`s ideas to open the debate about tax policy and to identify their "direction of travel" - which is just what the Commission proposes.

The Stoat said...

Radio 5 Live wasn't much better, either. Nicky Campbell sounded bored out of his tree interviewing Ed Balls on the subject.

I only listen to Radio 4 Today if I really have to, these days (usually I've forgotten to change channels after Today in Westminster the night before).

Regards to fellow post grad students

AnyonebutBlair said...

Was that the same James Naughtie who referred to NuLabour as "we".
The BBC will not stoke "what services will be cut" scare stories by the evil tories. Is so childish and economically illiterate. We are talking about 21Bn of tax cuts funded not by cutting services but slowing the rate of growth in spending. NuLab spending growth was 4-5%+ pa in places like the NHS. Brown now plans to trim that back to around 1.7-1.9%. The Forsyth tax cuts will be funded by slowing growth to around 1.2%. I'm sorry but a) slowing spending growth is not a cut b) Brown is slowing spending by around 2.5%, Forsyth proposes an additional 0.5%. c) A bit of transparency in the financial performance of the UK rather than Brownite spin would be good. Inflation is really about 3.6% measured by RPI and not the fradulent CPI, and how much off balance sheet libilities has NuLab built up via cosy PFI deals with their mates? A lot lot more than 21Bn.

Vlad the Impala said...

I have the gravest suspicions about the so-called accident that led to the early posting of the tax proposals, but one thing is clear: Ed Balls is developing into a wonderful target for the opposition. His sense of self-worth, ability to misrepresent an opponent's position with superficial fluency and inability to listen (OK, learnt at the knee of the master) will lead him down to self-implosion in any open debate. The zealot's stare is an added bonus. Having watched him across several interviews with largely compliant reporters, it is clear his approach to discussion is to steamroller over any obstacle in his way, even mild questioning, which suggests (like the master he learned from) the inability to engage in discussion based on real give and take. He comes across as a thoroughly unlikeable bully when I imagine he thinks he is conveying the impression of being a thoughtful and thorough economist. I thought Gordon's elevation might make me look for my passport, but the thought of him at the treasury would simply add urgency to that search.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you Iain. We have done and are continually doing so much as a party to modernise and to ensure we are electable and in touch with ordinary, non politicical members of the public. We must inspire people, empower people, give them hope and in return they WILL vote for us. If George Osbourne simply continues to sound too safe and follows Gordon Brown's set agenda, then we may as well hang up our boots now! With all the extra new billions of pounds flying into the treasury's coffers just from Stamp Duty (land tax....whatever), alone we should be able to reduce the burden on hard working middle England....the ones who pay for everyone's health in this country and everyone's old age, education, benefits, disability vehicles and much, much more. Yet these same people are often paying the highest tax band because Gordon hasn't moved the burden upward to hit the real high earners. For example. A teacher at the top of their scale now, who earns say £39000 a year is now a 40% tax payer yet he cannot even come close to buying the UK's average priced house because 3.5 X is less than £120,000. What kind of family home can you buy for that and where? Is it any wonder teachers, nurses and other public sector workers are feeling they don't get a fair deal? Of course we can promise cuts.....George has just got to be brave and careful to show that we will manage the tax cuts and still provide effective public services by cutting out the huge levels of financial waste. He needs to advocate getting rid of some of "New" Labour's rediculuos quangos. They're expensive and appear to provide trendy, high paying jobs for Tony's mates at great expense to the British taxpayer.

Blamerbell said...


Tory tax proposals = Last night's news

Ministers' reaction = This morning's news.

That's why it's called the TODAY programme.

Matthew Cain said...

there needs to be somewhere that victims of misleading or inaccurate coverage can go to put their side of the story. And then let the public vote on which side they believe more

Anonymous said...

Strapworld (8:46), I think you're being a bit unfair on Iain and have, perhaps, misunderstood the thrust of what he was saying. My reading of Iain's comment is that he was criticising Osborne for simply apeing NuLab policies and, thereby, being uninspiring. (Though, I grant you, Iain could perhaps have made his point with greater clarity!)

Anonymous said...

'Media studies'?!!

Excuse me!

Anonymous said...

This shows exactly why we need a Tory government.

Anonymous said...

Here's another good one from the BBC:

"Or will they be persuaded by Labour's suggestion that the document marks a return to the old Tory agenda of tax cuts funded by slashing public services?"

Not quite phrased right, is it? Implies that this definitely was a previous agenda rather than just Labourspeak, and "slashing" is not a neutral word at all...

Cassilis has this right of course, the reality (21B being less than one year's growth) is very different from the way Labour are able to portray it, the problem is that the media don't (or won't) explain it properly.

I think that the first question we should be asking is how to go about simplifying the horrendously complex tax system. Since you can't simplify in a completely neutral way - and the media will no doubt chase anyone who looks like losing out - there would have to be some reduction in order to get this through. I think this is a much more important use of any additional government income than tweaking the base rate or allowances here and there.

BJ said...

7am. The Tory Tax Commission report had been in the public domain for some hours. It was OLD NEWS.

George Osborne had not yet given "Today" his reaction to the report. NOT NEWS YET.

The government had rather cheekily, but legitimately, got in there with a "pre-buttal" BINGO! NEWS!

Anyone who harps on more about BBC "bias" deserves a swift pre-buttal, Zidane-style...

MorrisOx said...

Iain, you can't be surprised at the Beeb libs leaping at the chance to exhume hoary old 'tax cutz meanz service cutz' stories, tabloid knee-jerk though it was.

There is an issue George needs to have an answer for, though. Much as I loathe agencies like RDAs, the fact is that they and other organisations of that ilk employ large numbers of people whose income tax and personal spending help sustain the economy.

What do you replace their contribution with?

Anonymous said...

More Lib Dem policies quietly taken on by the other parties, who then say: "You've got no policies"

The Hitch said...

People want one thing from the Conservatives and one thing alone, HOPE! and Cameron is not offering that, he is offering more of the same.
Margaret Thatcher offered hope.
Hope that we could escape the clutches of the unions.
Hope that taxes would fall.
Hope that the country could rise from bankruptcy.
As you rightly point Iain why would anybody take the trouble to go and vote for more of the same just because its fronted by somebody with nice hair and a different name?

Anonymous said...

Hackneyed - but accurate - response to the Forsyth Report is that "the mountain has laboured and brought forth a mouse". Osborne must have heaved a sigh of relief when he saw the final report. Even Balls was struggling desperately to find something with which to rubbish it.

The tragedy for those of us outside the targeted (and mythical) "middle ground" of Cameron's "Conservatives" is that there is little substantive in the report that Gordo would not comfortably sign up to. Osborne complains that Gordo is short with him: of course he is - when was the last time you spent time talking to your echo?

Unknown said...

If the proposals made by the tax commission as detailed in the Telegraph today become manifesto commitments - especially the reforms to IHT, then I will be deeply inspired.

Just need to sort out SDLT to make it a smoothly applied tax (i.e. as with income tax) and then we will be on our way.

Anonymous said...

Privatise the BBC and make them swim in the market place along with the rest of the mass media and then we will see what the neo-socialist mamagement and presenters say when they face that reality.
I heard them too this morning in the full swing of bias.
Come on Iain and support the true Conservatives in their crusade.

Anonymous said...

All this is typical of the Tories current approach - attract floating voters (e.g. we will maintain public spending, need to distance ourselves from the US on Iraq) and then have more detailed proposals (the tax commission, the actual content of Cameron's foreign policy speech) which can then be used to provide comfort to the "true believers".

Obviously the PR man believes he needs different messages for different audiences (if he doesn't then why was Osborne allowed to front the tax proposals this morning). But this is really just a continuation of the Howard and Crosby's dog whistle politics.

Some may say Blair did just the same - but the difference is that Blair did not try to appease elements of his party by saying what they wanted to hear - his message was fairly constant. The similarities are more with the Labour Party in the 1980s when the leadership campaigned on one basis - but then had the "longest suicide note" in the background.

Anonymous said...

As someone who despaired of the under-investment in public services throughout the Thatcher-Major years and yearned for swift improvements once Labour had taken over, I can actually sympathise with your point of view, Iain, although I am coming at it from the opposite direction politically.

But the point is, Gordon was right and I was wrong. The strategy of promising sticking to Tory spending plans for the first two years may have been the cause of much anguish within the Labour Party, but it worked, and was probably the single most crucial factor in rendering the Tories' "New Labour, New Danger" campaign ineffectual.

Nearly ten years on, I see no evidence of any great change in the prevailing public mood on these matters. As a previous poster said, people do want economic stability above all else, and if that means Labour having to curb its tax-and-spend instincts and the Tories having to curb their tax-cutting instincts, then so be it.

Okay, so it risks turning politics into a ideology-free-zone, which
I don't like it any more than you, but that's the political reality of the situation both our parties are in.

CityUnslicker said...

Bondwoman - so they were pro-government for 2 years? ot is that you Ed Balls in disguise and showing your lack of basic maths skills?

On the issue as a whole, discussing reducing stamp duty on shares and inheritance tax will get us nowhere in the polls; lnulab are silly, quoting tax cuts for the rich is true here. Reducing the basic rates for all is much fairer and the good proposals in the report that discuss this should be adopted.

Anonymous said...

Re: "Ministers have reacted to the proposals..."

This is how 24 hour news reporting works in any organisation. The intro will depend on when you came to the story in the lifecycle.

When the story first broke, the intro is likely to have been "The proposals have been released..." - eg on the BBC news website.

By the time the TV news rolls around, the story will have been moved forwards eg to "Ministers have reacted to".

This is the format of every single news story - it is so you maximise your audience by indicating to those who read the first story that there is an update and they won't be bored by hearing the story repeated.

Sorry to burst the conspiracy theory.

HM Stanley said...

There is an old saying in the US (often attributed to Bob Novak..the reaal Prince of Darkness, according to Denis Healey, and not Richard Pearle)that the only reason Republicans were put on this earth is to cut taxes. These are what are called supply-siders. However, Republicans have realized that in order to win, they need more than supply siders, they need a big tent..including protectionists, gun-nuts, pro-lifers, etc. Therefore, the sooner y'all tories realize this, the better if tories are to get back in power.

Anonymous said...

Dawn Parry 10.11pm

You make me laugh Dawn. Why bother voting for Blue Labour when you can have the real thing with Bliar/Fat Scottish Communist, NuLabour?

What you and the rest of the electorate should be asking themselves, is what happens to our £40 Million pounds which goes to the undemocratic, corrupt Brussels machine - EVERY DAY (where Conservative MEP's support most of the federalist agenda).

The Lib/Lab/Con "one-party state" needs effective opposition.

Try this lot

Anonymous said...

Iain - I'm bemused why my comment yesterday didn't get through the Dale filters! Was it because I used the F-word (for emphasis, not offense) - if so, why not be honest about the no-swearing rule? Or was it more worryingly because the post suggested spending cuts were a good thing? I hope you aren't abandoning your "proper blogger" roots to push a party line!

Iain Dale said...

Cynic, I don't recall deleting anything. I have always said I reserve the right to delete posts which contain gratuitous 4 letter words. I never delete posts because i disagree with them.

Anonymous said...

Left-wing and anti-Conservative Party bias has been rampant in broadcast news, ever since I have been watching and listening to the news broadcasters (since the early '80s). The BBC and ITN spent 18 years demonising Tory party during their last period in office. Television news bulletins have been largely responsible for misrepresenting the Conservative Party on just about every domestic policy area. You never get much detail in the major news bulletins because of time constraints, but they were very destructive in terms of their ability to produce a negative image over a longer period of time. The BBC’s idea of balance is clearly based on Pareto.

Unfortunately, many people (significant portion of the electorate) in this country, do not read a decent newspaper or take the time to get themselves properly informed, instead they rely on Television news to give them a quick hit of current affairs. This I believe, is what has damaged the Tory party with the under 35’s. Part of the reason (although they were many others) for the massive defeat in ’97 was because that was the first time that the “TV Generation” had a chance to vote. Many younger voters had grown up in the ‘80s watching TV and TV news. Their parents may have known better, but they were almost brainwashed by negative imagery and stereo types of what the Tory party stood for, and conversely were sold New Labour very heavily. Not surprising, I suppose, when someone like Poly Toynbee was chief political editor at ITN prior to ’97 and held senior positions in the BBC news department before that. I am under 35 myself, but I learnt to think for myself at an early age. Some people I know, have a knee-jerk anti-conservative party view because they were bombarded with anti-conservative propaganda for so many years. They are not ideologically opposed to the Tories, they just don’t feel connected to them or distrust them.

What has been most noticeable, since Labour came to power, is how broadcast news has shifted the agenda away from domestic issues and has de-politicised, so much of what they used to politicise when the Conservatives were in office. It’s not surprising, since Afghanistan and Iraq, that there is more on foreign affairs, but the amount of airtime given over to critical analysis of domestic issues is tiny, in comparison to what it used to be 10 years ago. And when it is mentioned it is usually buried about 20 minutes in without even showing a government minister’s response and no Conservative spokesman given any airtime. The only grief the government has been given, was on Iraq, and that was personally directed at Blair and is consistent with the views of many of his cabinet and party, and foreign affairs, as we saw last year, rarely lose governments elections, I suspect Broadcast news is fully aware of that fact to.

This government gets away with so much more when it comes to failure in policy of governments departments, like the Home Office and NHS failing badly or when it comes to personal and professional wrong doing on the part of people like Prescott or Blunkett, not to mention the complete lack of criticism of Gordon Brown. Broadcast news, consistently under-reports and under-scrutinises these things when compared to the endless grief the broadcasters gave the last Conservative government, for very often, lesser offences.

The most sinister thing with this bias, is that, it’s very bad for democracy as so many people are not being properly informed with what this government is doing. Democracy relies on a free media keeping governments on their toes by bringing problem areas to the public’s attention, so that government may act to improve things. The reason that the NHS has been allowed to fail so badly and that the prison system is bursting at the seams, for example, is not because these problems occurred suddenly over-night, but because this government’s sheer arrogance and incompetence over many years has led to it. They perhaps, might have felt compelled to do things better if the BBC nine o’clock news was headlining these problems, instead of conveniently ignoring them.

The consequence of this type of burying of bad domestic news hits the Conservatives because, not only do many people not have a full picture on what the government is doing badly, but it then becomes almost impossible for the Conservatives to set the domestic agenda, because there isn’t enough concern amongst the electorate due to lack of information, and most importantly is that broadcast news will not give the Conservatives any airtime to do so.

Broadcast news’ reaction to the Conservative Tax review was typical of the deliberate misrepresentation of Conservative policies by TV and radio news.
On a day when unemployment figures hit a 6 year high, The news headlines are full of “Tax cutting Tories” and how nasty or incompetent they are, and Ed Balls (very apt name!) is giving plenty of airtime by the likes of ITN to lie about Conservative policy, but did they ask him about unemployment in this country? Did they hell! Ask yourself ,if a Conservative government would be treated as kindly as this? Of course not!

Broadcast news is hand-in-glove with Gordon Brown and the Labour spin machine. This type of anti-Conservative bias is going to happen an awful lot between now and the next election. David Cameron and the Conservatives are looking electable, Gordon Brown isn’t nearly as popular as he or his friends were thinking, and they are scared. Broadcast news sung Blair’s and New Labour’s praises at every opportunity before the ’97 election, we all know Cameron will not be afforded that, so it is good to see him using web casting as a way round the socialist firewall that Broadcast news puts up between the Tory party and the voters.

Anonymous said...

CYNIC - Join me on a yellow , card . Perhaps it will become a badge of honour.

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