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6 April 2010

Tory NI cut “laughable piffle”, says right-wing columnist

Peter Hitchens lays in to George Osborne

By James Macintyre

The Mail on Sunday‘s lead commentator, Peter Hitchens, has a colourful description of last week’s row about National Insurance on his blog.

During last week’s chancellors’ debate, the Tory George Osborne did fairly badly. He wasn’t a disaster, but he didn’t need to be. He was as usual unconvincing and squeaky. Worse, he was plainly in trouble over his scheme to pay for a National Insurance cut with “efficiency savings”, a claim which any serious politician, civil servant, economist and even political journalist knows to be laughable piffle.

There are no such savings. They do not exist. Alistair Darling pointed this out, but that could be discounted because it was in the way of business. The problem for Mr Osborne was that Vince Cable, who won the debate with ease, strongly supported the Chancellor on this.

What followed was a rescue operation by Tory HQ. Every businessman they could get their hands on was persuaded to sign a letter claiming that Labour’s planned NI changes would kill the recovery. What, big businessmen support the Tory party? Companies want to pay less tax? This was news equivalent to the revelation that the Atlantic Ocean is rather wet.

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So on to the front page, and the top of every bulletin, it duly went. It entirely swamped the rather different point, plainly made in the debate, that the Tories have no idea how they propose to pay for the very expensive policy on which their whole campaign now depends.

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Incidentally, above it is a rather interesting account of David Cameron’s wealth, for those who take an interest in this kind of thing.