Monday, 29 March 2010

Osborne ripped but tax cuts could play with voters

George Osborne's offer to cut taxes out of efficiency savings that have still to be identified properly is being hammered here at Westminster this afternoon, and yet...

Alistair Darling, in some pre-bout sparring ahead of the 8pm debate tonight, has accused Osborne of making it up as he goes along.

"George Osborne has panicked and is making policy up on the hoof," said Darling. "On the Tories' own figures, they've made a £28bn tax promise over the next Parliament, but not a single one of their savings is in the bank. It's paid for on a wing and a prayer."

Flaky, opportunistic, the oldest trick in the book - promising a tax cut in an election campaign might be all these things but beyond the beltway, outside Westminster, it might play.

With our close-up focal range we hacks forget that lots of voters will pick this up simply for what it is - a promise to tax them less.

The Tories weren't pulling away from Labour by promising tough love - cutting the deficit and public spending immediately - so they've changed direction over the weekend and lurched for a tax-cutting offer.

Sure, you can say they're rattled, but that isn't to say that the strategy won't work in the polls. Once again, it's a question of credibility and I'd say that's going to the biggest issue in the no-holds-barred debate between Darling, Osborne and Cable tonight.

The Lib Dems would usually place themselves in the middle of a three-way debate as the sensible alternative but I suspect that it will be a tag-team of Vince and Alistair against George tonight. The boy has a lot to prove, and there's an election riding on how he performs.

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