James Forsyth

If the Tories are serious about being ready to govern from day one, they should be examining whether or not Vat needs to be raised

If the Tories are serious about being ready to govern from day one, they should be examining whether or not Vat needs to be raised
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The Tory response to the story that they plan to raise Vat to 20 percent after the next election, worried me. The Tory line is that there are no plans to do this and that there have been no high-level discussions about it. But, frankly, there should have been. Not because increasing Vat is necessarily the right thing to do, but because the Tories should be exploring what can be done to get this country out of the huge fiscal hole that Brown has dug it into. I find it less than encouraging that less than a year out from an election, the opposition hasn’t even — or so it claims — discussed whether pushing Vat up to 20 percent might be necessary: if you haven’t examined something, you can’t know whether or not it is a sensible thing to do.

Now, I rather suspect that the Tories might have taken a look at this idea internally and that the line they put out yesterday was designed to turn the page on a story that wasn’t helpful to them. But seeing as the Tories — sensibly — won’t rule out tax rises, it seems absurd for them to say that they haven’t had any discussions about which taxes they could raise, if necessary, with least damage to the economy.

The press don’t make this easy sometimes, but the Tories should be prepared to talk to the public like adults rather than issuing denials that stretch credulity. David Cameron likes to attack Gordon Brown for treating people like fools, he should be careful that his party does not start doing the same whenever a story that is inconvenient to it comes along.