Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Tory tax cuts - the winning ticket"

The Mail and the Sun did their best to come up with an upbeat assessment of the Tories' big economic announcement. Leading the false praise was George Pascoe-Watson of the Sun. He certainly did a better job than the Tories in presenting the case for tax cuts, though I've seen him look more enthusiastic about hitting his golf ball into a bunker. "Tax cuts for every worker" was his take and Tory Central Office could do worse than nick the slogan for itself.

The Mail did its best to give the Tories a boost but you could tell its heart wasn't really in it. In Scotland, it has given ten times more column inches to slagging off Kirsty Wark for going on holiday with Jack "the knife" McConnell. The Indy virtually ignored the announcement and the Times hardly gave it big billing either.

But someone compared the Tories' statement to the late Labour leader John Smith's "shadow budget" in 1992. They must be joking. That presentation - and I was there - had far more impact than the Letwin-and-Howard show on Monday. But the coverage was all negative. The other major difference is that Smith didn't concede ground to the Tories, whereas Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin have almost completely accepted the Chancellor's economic planning.

About the only real difference is that the Tories want to announce a cut in inheritance tax (which only the mega-rich pay), a cut in stamp duty (paid mostly by affluent homeowners) and a tinkering with tax thresholds. All this will be worth a tiny tax cut, in macroeconomic terms, of £4bn. The Tories are so unsure of their ground that they won't formally announce any of this until after Gordon Brown's Budget.

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