One friend of Mr Blair said: "Tony thought the original proposal to raise the top rate to 45 pence was just about saleable in the current economic circumstances."But he believes taking 50 per cent is not acceptable. It would not have happened if he was still there. He thinks it's a terrible mistake."
A 45p top rate to be introduced after the next election was good politics even if it was bad economics. There was no breach of a manifesto commitment, it didn’t sound like punitive taxation and so was just about compatible with the New Labour project and it meant that the Tories had to say whether they would implement it or not. A 50p rate to be introduced before the election has none of these attractions. Brown, in his desire to draw dividing lines, has overreached.
PS I’m off to Cheltenham this morning to cover the Tory spring forum. I expect people there will be buzzing about this piece in The Times about tensions between Cameron and Boris. As Andrew Gimson writes in our Boris special, Boris’s national ambitions and relations with the leadership are going to be one of the most intriguing sub-plots of the Cameron years.