The Tories are getting themselves all in a lather about tax cuts. David Cameron is (wisely) refusing to commit the party to tax cuts as he seeks to drag the Tories kicking and screaming to electability. But the rank and file are not happy. Reading the Tory forums is an interesting exercise in discovering what real grass roots Tories think. They think that the one defining Tory policy that will win them the next election is tax cuts. They’re wrong, of course. If they were right Michael Howard would be comfortably esconced at number 10 right now!
As I live in the heart of Tory land, I have to suffer Tory controlled local government. Their election leaflets always refer to controlling council tax, and suggest that if they weren’t running the councils, then council tax would go up. Trouble is, they are struggling right now. Our local paper, the Bucks Free Press has featured a number of articles recently where our local councils have had to axe spending (usually blaming central government funding cuts as the excuse).
I hope the electorate as a whole have begun to see through this. The Thatcher years (where taxes weren’t cut that much in real terms anyway) were characterised by austerity and decay in public services. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the more the Tebbits and Redwoods of this world bleat about tax cuts, the more out of touch they look.
What is apparent, however, is that throwing taxpayers money around isn’t a magic cure. Gordon Brown has poured record amounts of money into the NHS – and yet the NHS is still in crisis. It is incredible that Labour have managed to squander such a fantastic opportunity to revitalise our public services. They have enjoyed a healthy economy and record tax revenues. I would love to know how much money we might have saved had we not embarked on this ill-judged ‘war on terror’ in Iraq. As the country slides into an ever deeping state of near civil war with no end in sight, the financial cost must run into billions.
With tax payers’ money, it’s not so much about how much you spend as how you spend it.