Peter Hoskin

Will Labour’s manifesto mean the end of VAT attacks on the Tories?

Will Labour's manifesto mean the end of VAT attacks on the Tories?
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You know it's the day you've all been waiting for, CoffeeHousers – the day of Labour's manifesto launch.  Last Thursday, Douglas Alexander described the document as a "progressive programme worthy of these testing times".  So, well, it must be good, mustn't it?

Problem is, this manifesto risks going the same way as the Budget.  So much of it has been so heavily trailed, that there's a danger we've already heard it all – and that it will be met with weary indifference by the media and the public alike.  

Votes for 16 year olds; jobs or training for unemployed under-25s; a referendum on an alternative vote system; a pledge not to raise the basic rate of income tax; 'Cadbury's Law'; plans to allow football supporters to buy a stake in their clubs; even public sector takeovers – all have been mentioned in interviews or briefings by Labour ministers before now.  Which doesn't, of course, preclude any surprises – and I'm not saying that a manifesto should be one electric policy shock after another – but still...


Having said that, there is one mildly surprising component to this morning's coverage.  Apparently, and despite previous suggestions to the contrary, Labour won't pledge not to increase the rate of VAT – although they might commit not to expand the "scope" of the tax.

If so, that leaves all three parties in a similar position on VAT: unwilling to completely rule out a VAT hike, but unwilling to rule it in as well.  But, as you know, this hasn't stopped the Lib Dems from caricaturing the Tories as the party of higher VAT.  And, if Ed Balls gets his way, it might not stop Labour.  This campaign could descend to even grubbier, less honest levels yet.