Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

The real reason the Tories are getting tough on the licence fee

The BBC licence fee saga proves it

Credit: Getty Images

You know the Tories are worried about their core vote when they start talking tough on the BBC licence fee.

Rishi Sunak took time out of his Cop28 jaunt to declare that the Corporation must ‘cut its cloth appropriately’. Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer is against the planned £15 increase in the fee, which comes after a two-year freeze agreed between Auntie and the government. The new hike, set for April, will reflect the 12-month average of inflation, bringing the annual cost to television viewers to £173.30. 

Frazer is concerned about any increase being ‘sustainable for families across the country’ and so she reportedly wants to use a different metric for inflation, the consumer price index as of September, which stood at 6.7 per cent. Under this calculation, the TV tax would rise by only £10.65 to a mere £169.65. Disgruntled right-wingers claim there’s no value in having the Conservatives in government, but that’s just not true. We can put a value on it: £3.65. 

No doubt this will be frustrating for conservatives who oppose any increase in the licence fee or want to see it abolished altogether. All I can advise is that they elect a critic of the BBC as leader of the Conservative party then campaign hard enough that he wins an election with an 80-seat majority. Then the licence fee’s days will be numbered. 

I snark, of course, but I snark for a reason. The licence fee is another example of pundit government, in which ministers have come to see their primary function as commentating on political controversies rather than making law and policy in response to them. This might be understandable if the government was in a minority status in the House of Commons or if the issue in question was so fundamental that acting threatened to split the party. 

This government’s stance on the licence fee is a timeline of do-nothingism

But neither of those things are true.

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