As recently as November 2008, the Tories issued this poster attacking Gordon Brown's alleged plan to raise VAT to 20 per cent. But in yesterday's emergency Budget, Osborne did just that.
No doubt Osborne would reply, as he already has done, that Brown's economic legacy made a rise in VAT "unavoidable". But this claim doesn't bear scrutiny. The additional £32bn cut in current spending announced by the Chancellor is more than enough to eliminate "the bulk" of the deficit. The reality is, as Will Straw noted yesterday, that the rise in VAT was only necessary to pay for a range of dubious tax cuts elsewhere.
Osborne's tax cuts, including large cuts to corporation and income tax, totalled £12.4bn, while the VAT hike is expected to raise £13.5bn. There was nothing inevitable or unavoidable about this tax rise. Instead it reflected the Tories' ideological preference for VAT, a flat tax that takes no account of personal income.
Incidentally, the fallen idol, Vince Cable was finally questioned on the Lib Dems' own "VAT bombshell" poster last night. He said: "It may not have been the best-designed advertisement campaign that's ever been considered", before adding that he had always been clear that no party "could rule out" such a tax rise.
In the age of the "new politics" I suppose we're not meant to draw attention to the parties' past opportunism. But after Osborne's disastrous austerity Budget, it becomes not just a duty but a pleasure to do so.
Source: New Statesman