The poster that the Tories want you to forget

They claimed that Brown was planning to raise VAT to 20%. And then did it themselves.

Tory VAT poster

George Osborne chose to raise VAT, one of the most regressive taxes of all, in yesterday's Budget, but there was a time when his party campaigned fiercely against a rise.

As recently as November 2008, the Tory party 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. Rather, 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," but then added 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. After Osborne's disastrous austerity Budget, however, it becomes not just a duty, but a pleasure to do so.

Hat-tip: Liberal Conspiracy.

Special subscription offer: Get 12 issues for £12 plus a free copy of Andy Beckett's "When the Lights Went Out".

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Wikipedia.
Show Hide image

No, Jeremy Corbyn did not refuse to condemn the IRA. Please stop saying he did

Guys, seriously.

Okay, I’ll bite. Someone’s gotta say it, so really might as well be me:

No, Jeremy Corbyn did not, this weekend, refuse to condemn the IRA. And no, his choice of words was not just “and all other forms of racism” all over again.

Can’t wait to read my mentions after this one.

Let’s take the two contentions there in order. The claim that Corbyn refused to condem the IRA relates to his appearance on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme yesterday. (For those who haven’t had the pleasure, it’s a weekly political programme, hosted by Sophy Ridge and broadcast on a Sunday. Don’t say I never teach you anything.)

Here’s how Sky’s website reported that interview:

 

The first paragraph of that story reads:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised after he refused five times to directly condemn the IRA in an interview with Sky News.

The funny thing is, though, that the third paragraph of that story is this:

He said: “I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA.”

Apparently Jeremy Corbyn has been so widely criticised for refusing to condemn the IRA that people didn’t notice the bit where he specifically said that he condemned the IRA.

Hasn’t he done this before, though? Corbyn’s inability to say he that opposed anti-semitism without appending “and all other forms of racism” was widely – and, to my mind, rightly – criticised. These were weasel words, people argued: an attempt to deflect from a narrow subject where the hard left has often been in the wrong, to a broader one where it wasn’t.

Well, that pissed me off too: an inability to say simply “I oppose anti-semitism” made it look like he did not really think anti-semitism was that big a problem, an impression not relieved by, well, take your pick.

But no, to my mind, this....

“I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA.”

...is, despite its obvious structural similarities, not the same thing.

That’s because the “all other forms of racism thing” is an attempt to distract by bringing in something un-related. It implies that you can’t possibly be soft on anti-semitism if you were tough on Islamophobia or apartheid, and experience shows that simply isn’t true.

But loyalist bombing were not unrelated to IRA ones: they’re very related indeed. There really were atrocities committed on both sides of the Troubles, and while the fatalities were not numerically balanced, neither were they orders of magnitude apart.

As a result, specifically condemning both sides as Corbyn did seems like an entirely reasonable position to take. Far creepier, indeed, is to minimise one set of atrocities to score political points about something else entirely.

The point I’m making here isn’t really about Corbyn at all. Historically, his position on Northern Ireland has been pro-Republican, rather than pro-peace, and I’d be lying if I said I was entirely comfortable with that.

No, the point I’m making is about the media, and its bias against Labour. Whatever he may have said in the past, whatever may be written on his heart, yesterday morning Jeremy Corbyn condemned IRA bombings. This was the correct thing to do. His words were nonetheless reported as “Jeremy Corbyn refuses to condemn IRA”.

I mean, I don’t generally hold with blaming the mainstream media for politicians’ failures, but it’s a bit rum isn’t it?

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

0800 7318496