Left and right unite to condemn planned VAT rise

Expected rise in VAT under fire from trade unions and the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

It must count as some achievement to attract the simultaneous ire of the Taxpayers' Alliance and the TUC. That's the unusual position the coalition finds itself in this afternoon as the anticipated rise in VAT comes under attack.

The TPA has released a video condemning the regressive effect that any rise would have, pointing out that "VAT hits the poor twice as hard as the rich".

The video (and I apologise for the sub-Razorlight soundtrack) also reminds voters of the Lib Dem campaign poster that sounded the alarm over the Tories' "VAT bombshell".

George Osborne is expected to raise VAT from 17.5 per cent to as much as 20 per cent. A recent report for the Centre for Retail Research found that raising VAT to this level would cost each household £425 a year on average. It added that the resultant drop in consumer spending could cost 47,000 jobs and lead to the closure of almost 10,000 stores.

The TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, has warned: "VAT increases don't just hit the poor more than the rich, they also hit small firms, threaten retail jobs, and by boosting inflation could also lead to higher interest rates."

Lib Dem left-wingers (if such a term is not completely oxymoronic) such as the party's deputy leader, Simon Hughes, have already indicated that any rise in VAT would be unacceptable to them.

So long as the prize of electoral reform remains within their grasp, the Lib Dems will want to make the coalition work. But a VAT increase is bound to exacerbate the internal tensions that have emerged in recent weeks.

Osborne, a better politician than he is an economist, must hope that he has not miscalculated this time.

Hat-tip: Andrew Sparrow.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump vs Barack Obama: How the inauguration speeches compared

We compared the two presidents on trade, foreign affairs and climate change – so you (really, really) don't have to.

After watching Donald Trump's inaugural address, what better way to get rid of the last few dregs of hope than by comparing what he said with Barack Obama's address from 2009? 

Both thanked the previous President, with Trump calling the Obamas "magnificent", and pledged to reform Washington, but the comparison ended there. 

Here is what each of them said: 

On American jobs

Obama:

The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift.  And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.  We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.  We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.  We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.  And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

Trump:

For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

Obama had a plan for growth. Trump just blames the rest of the world...

On global warming

Obama:

With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

Trump:

On the Middle East:

Obama:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. 

Trump:

We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

On “greatness”

Obama:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned.

Trump:

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

 

On trade

Obama:

This is the journey we continue today.  We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth.  Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.  Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.  Our capacity remains undiminished.  

Trump:

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland