It is always nice to have one’s ideas taken up by those in high places – particularly when they are the very same people who have formerly pooh-poohed them. I was taken to task by Mr Brown at Prime Minister’s Questions recently for having criticised his VAT cut on this blog. ‘How will it help the poor’, I had written, ‘to give them a few more pence off consumer items they don’t need?’ This was quoted back to me out of context to try and make me sound like the ‘Marie Antoinette of the Tory Party’ – as I had been dubbed by one Labour MP quoted in the pages of the Daily Mirror.
Glad as I was that my old friends at the Mirror – and, apparently, the Downing Street press office – were such fans of this blog, it would have been nice if they had given the impression at the time of having read it a little more carefully. Because in the very same post, I had argued that instead of the piddling VAT cut, we should take the poor out of tax altogether.
But better late than never: I was cheered to read in the Daily Mirror last week that a plan to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000 is, “in the Prime Minister’s mind”.
This is no mere hack’s speculation; the words are those of no less an authority than John McFall, Chairman of the Treasury Committee, who, according to the report, wants Mr Brown to announce this policy as a “centrepiece” of the budget in March.
One cannot think that Mr McFall would say such a thing to the Mirror without approval from Number Ten, so I am curious to know how the plan came into our premier’s mind.
It’s well-known that the Prime Minister likes to stay up late at night, reading voraciously. Perhaps among the many volumes he has devoured is the second Cornerstone pamphlet, Being Conservative: A Cornerstone of Policies to Revive Tory Britain, which came out in autumn of 2005. In my short contribution to that team effort [‘Flat tax – too good to be true?’] I argued that we should raise the tax threshold by – £10,000!
In some quarters we may be nicknamed ‘Tombstone’, but this proves we’ve been ahead of the game for some time. Of course, in that pamphlet I also suggested raising the threshold in tandem with introducing a flat rate of income tax.
Perhaps now that Mr Brown has adopted one Cornerstone policy he could take in another? You could call this ‘constructive opposition.’