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.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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