It is a good job I donâ€™t eat cornflakes for breakfast. If I did, I would doubtless have choked on them when read the bald Sunday Telegraph headline â€œTory tax cut ruled out for four yearsâ€. After all I had put into the Economic Competitiveness Report to make the case for lower taxes, after the great reception tax cutting ideas have been receiving, after all the effort to help the party identify waste, needless expenditure and inefficiency throughout the pubic service, was it to be hope deferred for a whole Parliament? My first thought, was why had I bothered?
Then reason kicked in. Try reading the article more carefully, I told myself. See exactly what Mr Hammond had said. Ask yourself is it likely Mr Hammond would be sanctioned to dilute the line on taxes that Mr Osborne has been taking, which has been more and more sympathetic to the idea that lowering tax is important to companies and families? In the text of the article the words of Mr Hammond were rather different from the headline. Maybe there had been some stupid and over energetic spinning, or maybe the Telegraph just saw an opportunity to push the boat out a bit more for one of their strong beliefs. In practise Mr Hammond had said tax cuts would not necessarily come in Year one â€“ consistent with Mr Osborneâ€™s â€œNo upfront unfunded tax cutsâ€. The development of the Tory approach is somewhat different from the story that we move from wanting tax cuts in due course to ruling them out for a Parliament. What seems to have changed is that now tax cuts come from making savings in spending and from eliminating waste. I regard that as good progress. It must mean we will not be hitched to Labourâ€™s spending plans in perpetuity, but now understand that in the next decade it will be possible to get beneath them whilst delivering better services, and it is imperative to do so.
The new Hammond doctrine should encourage the whole Shadow Cabinet to knuckle down to find the savings and the inefficiencies which are there in such abundance â€“ or if it doesnâ€™t it should at least motivate Mr Hammond and his boss the Shadow Chancellor, to get out the best Conservative tactics for flushing out waste and incompetence in government, to start to put together some spending figures that could deliver people better schools and hospitals without breaking the bank. The government Labour inherited still had scope for doing more with less. After 11 years of bloating the public payrolls, growing the quango state, feathering the beds of many more regulators, and becoming the patron saint of the management consultancy industry, this government has left huge scope to do what Mr Hammond now advocates. Let’s go to it – it’s what the public wants and needs.