George Osborne and the government are apparently in ‘listening mode’ about tax credits and Bernard Jenkin has something to say. The Tory chair of the Public Administration select committee has a novel proposition for how to fund a way to soften the blow of the cuts. In my piece for Politico Europe today, Jenkin tells me:
‘I think Osborne should carry on with the cuts but ameliorate the introduction for those worst affected. It would show he is listening and compassionate If he needs the extra revenue and cannot find other short-term savings, he should be considering the Sugar Tax.’
The idea of a tax on sugary foods and drinks has been advocated by the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver but No.10 have already dismissed it. But it is popular public with the public: 53 per cent back the Sugar Tax according to a ComRes poll.
Despite the ongoing row over the cuts, the Tory backbenchers appear to be onside with the Chancellor, despite the belief by some that he needs to soften the impact. One loyal Conservative MP says ‘the chancellor’s reputation is still strong’ in the party:
‘No Tory MP voted for Labour’s motion on tax credits last week. The tax credit system needs reforming, he’s set the course and by following through, he’s showing strength. The needle on his reputation hasn’t shifted for the worse.’
Another backbencher agrees with this sentiment: ‘I think a U-turn would be more damaging than ploughing on’. The private concerns may still remain among Tories but the Chancellor will be pleased he has MPs on side, for now. It will be interesting to see what, if anything comes out of this ‘listening mode’ and whether this will calm the fears of those concerned Tory MPs.