Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Osborne may have mistimed his tax spectacle

It must have seemed like a great idea. The last time George Osborne announced a tax cut, it sparked a Tory revival that deeply destabilised Gordon Brown. So what better wheeze than to pull the same trick again, presenting himself as the man with the bold ideas, setting the agenda for the day’s debate with Alistair Darling and Vince Cable?

Maybe. We’ll have to wait and see.

But the differences between autumn 2007 and now are telling: then, he announced his plan to rapturous applause from the Tory conference, in a week when coverage of the other parties was bound to be limited, so his momentum could grow and grow. Now, he has announced his new plan to a press conference and gone on to a debate in front of a sceptical public audience, leading to news coverage that showed Darling and Cable both damning his proposals, outweighing his own limelight by two to one.

That said, he could hardly have announced it earlier, having needed to chew over the implications of the Budget first; and if he’d saved it until later, he’d have had less of interest to say in the debate. But I suspect the debate will be forgotten in a few days.

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