Peter Hoskin

Labour have moved on from the death tax for now – and so should the Tories

Labour have moved on from the death tax for now – and so should the  Tories
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Labour's plans for a national care service aren't looking too sharp this morning.  Andy Burnham is expected to announce a cap on residential costs for the elderly later today – to be funded by freezing inheritance tax bands, raising the statutory retirement age, and (lo!) efficiency savings.  But the full, free-for-everyone-at-the-point-of-use service will have to wait some time – or at least until a new independent commission has decided on how it can be funded in the long-term.  In other words, the government has decided to park the death tax issue until well after the election.

Presentationally speaking, this is proving difficult for the government.  I mean, just rewind to Alistair Darling last night, stumbling and mumbling over whether Labour are still considering a death tax.  And then there was Burnham's wobbly performance, on the same issue, on the Today programme this morning.  This isn't going to help convince voters that Labour has a substantial policy here – which is, of course, good news for the government's opponents.

But the Tories should remain wary nonetheless.  As CoffeeHousers may remember, I wasn't impressed by their poster campaign on the death tax – it seemed to me that they were falsely suggesting it was current Labour policy, and then attacking the lie they had set up.  Well, now it has been confirmed that a death tax isn't going to be Labour policy for the next Parliament, then there's even less to be gained from this attack.  And there's little to be gained, too, from gloating about Labour declining to impose a death tax – because that just highlights how misleading the Tory argument was in the first place.

Far preferable, I think, to just let Burnham stew in his own confused policy, this time.  Or, better still, attack the policy on its own grounds.  Not for what might have been.