Peter Hoskin

Could Clarke’s premature announcement have been good for the Tories?

Could Clarke's premature announcement have been good for the Tories?
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Steve Richards is right: Ken Clarke was only being honest about the Tories and inheritance tax.  The current fiscal landscape means that certain pledges will have to be sacrificed (or at least delayed) and, to my mind, the IHT pledge is a good candidate for that.  You imagine that Clarke's take, carefully stage-managed, would have become the official Tory line in a few weeks or months.

But it's happened now, and it seems to have wreaked some damage on the Tories.  Coming so soon after the 45p tax announcement, the word "aspiration", and the confused retractions and denials surrouding it, have - rightly or wrongly - allowed a twin "tax confusion" and "Tory split" story to develop.  Today, that enters a new stage, with the newspapers looking into what other Tory tax pledges may now have to be shelved.  Tory tax policy may be left looking all that much thinner for it, so it's little wonder why David Cameron has rebuked Clarke in private.  And yet...   

There's another way of looking at it.  These are issues that the Tories would have to face sooner or later.  Better that Clarke, however unintentionally, has made the party leadership deal with them now, than a similar row and similar media coverage break out closer to election time.  Of course, only time will tell whether the situation has now been defused in some way - although I'd be keen to hear what CoffeeHousers think.

P.S. I briefly had my say on the Tory tax issue on Newsnight yesterday.  You can watch my appearance 28 minutes, 37 seconds into the video here.