25 Mar 2015

No VAT rise in next government, Cameron says


The Tories claim they laid a giant elephant trap on VAT and that Ed Miliband walked right into it. Conservative sources say the decision was made “some weeks ago” to rule out VAT rises and today was seen as a high impact day to say it.

George Osborne, they say, purposefully didn’t rule out a rise yesterday to make Labour think they might score points embarrassing the PM on the subject.


But when Ed Miliband asked the PM to rule out a VAT rise the PM quickly did just that.

The Tories say they worked out some time ago they could afford the self-denying ordinance because the nation’s finances are in such good order. But you can’t help wondering if Treasury mandarins are tearing their hair out at another revenue raiser forgone, sacrificed on the altar of swing votes.

One Labour shadow cabinet member said the chancellor looked horrified when the PM spoke and had himself been ambushed. Tories say that’s not true.

Watching from the gallery were David Cameron’s wife Sam and two of their children. Elwen seemed to lose interest quite quickly in the proceedings. He’s lucky that Michael Gove is no longer education secretary – he used to take a very dim view of children being taken out of class.

Dozens of Tory MPs waved goodbye to Ed Miliband. A few Labour MPs tried the same trick back. It’s a strange atmosphere on the last big gathering of the Commons. Many with safe seats know they’ll be back, but some have no idea whether they’ll ever return. Those unsure of their future who never dreamt they’d be in that category include many Scottish Labour MPs whose majorities used to mean they had a job for life.

When Ed Miliband started his first question asking about the PM’s recently announced “retirement plans” I saw Samantha Cameron laugh quite cheerily. Was it the prospect or the humour?

It looks like she has to wait until Monday for David Cameron to fire the starting gun for the next phase of their life when he is expected to see the Queen to ask for the dissolution of parliament.

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