Tax cuts for the many

When Mr Clarke yesterday called a manifesto promise and a firm policy pledge an “aspiration” the BBC and Labour went into overdrive. Here they hoped was manna from heaven. Here they drooled was a major Tory tax war, here they salivated was proof that Clarke was taking over as Shadow Chancellor, here was an opportunity to portray the Tory party badly. My phone kept ringing as programmes promised me cameras wherever I was if only I would denounce either Clarke or George Osborne, or would say something to turn a wrongly chosen word into a major row.

I explained to them with growing irritation that nothing had changed in Conservative policy. Mr Osborne is Shadow Chancellor and he had made the position quite clear in 2007. Mr Clarke should have said it was a promise, not just an aspiration, and would say so shortly.

The fact that the BBC thought this single misplaced word to describe a well established policy was a leading news item tells us a great deal about how the BBC runs its news services. In the meantime they cancelled the offer of an outing on the Today programnme for me to explain a better way of tackling broken banks this morning, despite the Sunday Express article setting it all out again and other media interest. I was offered a slot and probably a radio car to make it easy if I would build their non story about Tory tax wars. That was an easy one to call!


  1. Freddy
    March 23, 2009

    Sorry for asking it again, but what is a new Tory government going to do about the BBC ?

    1. Alan
      March 23, 2009

      But is the BBC’s line on this issue so very different from the Mail, Telegraph etc? Any whiff of confusion over a key issue is likely to translate into lost votes.

      1. bill
        March 23, 2009

        You are absolutely right just what is wrong with the BBC doing this . It is Mr Clarke who deliberately sows confusion to undermine policies he does not like. People forget he has form on this.

    2. James Morrison
      March 23, 2009

      David Cameron mentioned last week that the Tories would take the radical step of freezing the budget, saving us a massive £3 each.

      Of course, rather than taking the money from the salaries of the top brass, the BBC will make cuts in popular areas instead, thus making the Tories into the villains, and probably meaning the BBC get a bigger raise the following year

    3. Acorn
      March 23, 2009

      A good question Freddy, I suggest they sell it off for cash; the next government is going to need all the cash it can find. We will run off the tele tax over five years to give the new owners a kick-start.

      It is interesting that the BBC is trying to start a Tory tax war over a tax (IHT) which, in today’s terms, is generating pocket money; £3.1 billion. Next year it is likely to drop to £2.4 billion.

      The BBC mugs us for £3.4 billion in television tax (sorry, licence), including the over 75’s subsidy from the government.

      So there is a one liner for JR; “Inheritance Tax generates less than the BBC telly licence”.

    4. APL
      March 23, 2009

      Tonights BBC news about Tony McNulty and his innovative and lucrative expense scheme.

      Huw Edwards: [Introduced the item along the following lines;] More financial scandal for MPs, “THIS TIME WITH A GOVERNMENT MINISTER”.

      Excuse me? The last time was a government minister too, her name was Jackie Smith.

  2. David Eyles
    March 23, 2009

    This, and similar experiences you have had over the last week or two, begs the question: Who, in the BBC, is taking orders from whom, in Downing Street, about which questions to pursue?

    Who is dictating that the real state of the economy should not be discussed, not on television, or radio or in the House of Commons?

  3. bill
    March 23, 2009

    I hope Mr Clarke will say it was a promise rather than an aspiration . Unfortunately knowing Mr Clarke I doubt he will do this.

  4. Brigham
    March 23, 2009

    I hate to disagree with you, but it is not just the papers making a big thing about one word. It, in my opinion, shows up the Tory leadership, for choosing, as their business minister, a person who makes such gaffes. Ken Clarke’s record, despite being called a “big gun”, is nothing to write home about. I consider him to be the first person to start the decline of the NHS with the “internal market”, and he is still in favour of the crooked institution known as the EU, despite the auditors. A better choice would have been someone not too far from this column.

    1. mikestallard
      March 23, 2009

      No. Ken Clarke is justifiably one of the best politicians in the Conservative ranks. Perhaps you have forgotten how excellently he handled the economy up to 1997 when the Labour took it over? He started, remember, from “Black Wednesday” too.
      Yes, he is out of date because he hasn’t noticed the changes in the Common Market.
      On the other hand, he has the knack, on Question Time of saying exactly what people are thinking, often with a deep insight thrown in.
      Compared with Peter Mandelson, the man is a giant.

  5. Colin D.
    March 23, 2009

    The BBC is supposed to be apolitical. They now seem to an extension of the Labour media organisation with a mere pretence of a display of lack of bias. What makes all this outrageous is that, in the last election, more votes were cast for Conservatives than Labour.
    When the Conservatives come back in power I hope they sort the BBC out and force them to return to their charter.

  6. Ian Jones
    March 23, 2009

    Certain BBC employees know they will be booted out the day the Conservatives take over and will do whatever is required to stop that.

    Let’s hope it blows over and these people are booted out.

  7. Stuart Fairney
    March 23, 2009

    Well said. My TV activates on BBC 1 and so I caught about 20 seconds of the “news” coverage, (I would not of course otherwise watch it).

    If this isn’t enough to show Mr Cameron that the BBC needs to become a subscription funded service as opposed to a mandatory poll tax, then nothing will. Frankly a 1-year freeze in the licence changes nothing.

    1. Peter H
      March 23, 2009

      The BBC to become a subscription funded service? That might work for TV but I don’t see how it could work for BBC radio. Digital radio in the UK is not long for this world, too expensive to maintain and too low a take-up by the populous.

      1. APL
        March 23, 2009

        Peter H: “Digital radio in the UK is not long for this world, too expensive to maintain and too low a take-up by the populous.”

        Why does the BBC doesn’t have to be involved in pushing every ‘freeky’ innovation that happens to amble by?

        When high quality digital streaming audio became avaliable via the internet, with many people already owinging a PC, what is the point of buying an additional digital radio for something you can just as easily get through the web. By the way, it is possible to buy ‘web connected recievers’ too (that way you don’t need to have your PC on all the time). But even these are an expensive solution by comparrison to the analogue audio recievers that we are all familiar with.

        Frankly, the whole technical innovation for the sake of it meme, has become a little ‘old’. What is the problem with the good old analogue audio transmissions?

        In my opinion the drive to ‘free up the analogue spectrum’ was driven by the governments desire to auction off the analogue spectrum, I fancy they are several years too late.

      2. Stuart Fairney
        March 23, 2009

        Quite correct.

        If there is no commercial demand for a service, then it should not continue. The better shows would be picked up by commercial radio stations, unwanted ones should not be subsidised on pain of imprisonment.

  8. Demetrius
    March 23, 2009

    Your remarks give me the warm glow of a fellow feeling. At the moment I have a major complaint running with the BBC relating specifically to persistent editorial incompetence in relation to a serious issue. There are times when the BBC News is almost a comedy turn because of the howlers and inaccuracies. With the way the world is now it is not at all funny, in fact it is becoming dangerous.

  9. Brian Tomkinson
    March 23, 2009

    The Mail and Telegraph have also led with negative sounding headlines. Clarity and consistency when discussing the few Conservative policies publicly announced is essential. This is another, if different, example of what I previously described as an ineffective Opposition.

  10. Andy W
    March 23, 2009

    Given that total mess that the economy is in making any promise of any kind must surely be out of the window.
    The financial outlook was completely different when the commitment was made to now. Why can’t the Tories explain it as it is rather than stick to promises that may be unwise to keep? I would have hoped that Ken Clarke was stating the ‘bleeding obvious’. That is why, amongst the general public, he is seen as honest.

  11. david
    March 23, 2009

    Hmmm so Ken was saying the same as George on IHT as he John? Bit like you and Zac on airports was it?

  12. alan jutson
    March 23, 2009

    Simple solution to the problem.

    David Cameron makes a public statement on the subject.

    Aware it means it lengthens the story by a day, but it also should kill speculation.

    The more interesting news has been buried on the inside pages of the Sunday Times.

    A Class Legal action pending in the USA on RBS share values, and a similar action pending here, Legal Council working on it here is no other than Cherie Blair.

    I did say in this Blog many weeks ago it may well happen, there is a precident which is Royal Dutch Shell.

    If RBS is forced to pay compensation to shareholders for loss in values, then who pays. The Taxpayer again I guess, and again the Taxpayer for legal fees.

    Any Comment.

  13. Roland Deschain
    March 23, 2009

    Mr Redwood, you obviously recognise the BBC for what it is. But is anyone in the Conservatives going to do anything about it?

    With its guaranteed funding it has become a bloated presence in the British media, able to set the news agenda whilst barely paying lip service to the requirement to remain politically neutral. The Conservatives seem to think they have to be nice to it when the manufactured furore over “Tory tax wars” shows exactly where the BBC thinks its loyalties are.

    I recognise that, politically, you cannot simply say it will be broken up, as too many people still mistakenly hold the BBC in great esteem based on its history. However in the long run I believe that is what will have to happen.

    Reply: The BBC is going to find iit difficult to adapt to the age of multimedia and multi channel broadcasting and narrow casting. Conservatives need to concentrate on upholding fair competition in the media, and limiting subsidy.

    1. Stuart Fairney
      March 24, 2009

      Could they concentrate on limiting it to zero perhaps?

  14. oldrightie
    March 23, 2009

    I despair at most of our media. Back in, I think, 2005, Blair placed a crony as head of ITV licensing and has since neutered their stance. Nick Robinson was bought and paid for and poached from ITV when he was shouting “Emperor’s clothes” at Blair.
    Labour’s grip is scary and the main reason they are not below 20% in the polls. That and the Glenrothes techniques.

  15. Blank Xavier
    March 23, 2009

    The BBC depend on the encumbent Government to set their funding.

    It would be wholly remarkable if bias was not present.

    Another reason to detach the BBC from State controlled funding.

  16. Neil Craig
    March 23, 2009

    That was pretty much how i thought it. My local BBC radio phone in show was devoted to it this morning spun on the”can we afford this rather than letting the government spend it when there is such a big deficit”. The report that the deficit is going to be £180 bn is a real story but does not support statists so the BBC don’t mention it. They could ecen have spun this story as “will cutting inheritance tax help the economy more than spending it on windmills & quangos”.

    For what it is worth I think it would be irresponsible to cut this on day one but that they should do so once they have about £20 bn of spending cuts passed. I doubt if either Clarke or Osborne would disagree with that & I think saying so might help concentrate the public’s mind on the fact that cutting spending & cutting taxes are 2 sides of the same coin.

  17. Steve Cox
    March 23, 2009

    The best approach for the Conservatives is to treat all matters of possible changes to both taxes and public spending in the same way. Emphasise that Brown and Darling have made such an utter, incalculable mess of the economy, that it is neither wise nor sensible to commit to detailed plans a year or more in advance. Simply state that when the Conservatives form the next government, they will have to look at the books and decide then how to fix matters. I believe that Mrs. Thatcher was stunned when she became PM and finally got a ‘proper’ look at the books at just how bad they really were. It will be the same, but worse, this time around. Make hay out of Nulab’s utter incompetence, and how much work it will be for the Tories to restore things to normal, without committing to too many details. After all, given the scale of the problems we face, that would be foolish. At present, nobody actually knows what it will take to fix this catastrophe. So why hide the truth when it is so damaging to the socialists?

  18. Not an Economist
    March 23, 2009

    “In the meantime they cancelled the offer of an outing on the Today programnme for me to explain a better way of tackling broken banks this morning.”

    The difficulty is I think this is much needed. Increasingly only one view on the banking crisis is allowed to be aired on the BBC, and thats effectively the govt’s line (or a derivative of the statist approach – like Cable’s). Anything else is tantamount to treason.

    Tim Condon was on Today a while ago and he dared to suggest the banks should not have been bailed out the way they have been. Evan Davis’ high pitched voice could then be heard unceremoniously dismissing what Condon had to say in a manner more appropriate to a student debate than the hallowed halls of the BBC. Thus, a chance at a truly interesting invterview on this crisis was lost, all because of the incompetence of BBC Radio 4’s latest rising (news) star.

    Likewise Davis challenged George Osborne on the Tory approach to bailing out the banks just the other day, making it quite clear in his tone that any policy other than bailing them out would have been beyond the pale. Poor old George soldiered on admirably.

    I find this a sharp contrast to the American cable news channels like CNBC, Bloomberg or CNN where debates are held with the likes of Ron Paul, Peter Schiff, Jim Rogers or Marc Faber who take a very radical approach to the problems we now face. I don’t ask such people to be given a free ride on the BBC. What I do ask is for the BBC interviewers to give them a chance to air their views and ask intelligent probing questions designed to highlight the differences with the conceived wisdom that the BBC constantly pedal. The BBC should be actively seeking such contrary views to challenge the govt and the assumptions it is making and not just cosseting the govt speakers who come on their news programmes in cosy, safe interviews on the grounds that we should all support the govt in this moment of crisis.

  19. APL
    March 23, 2009

    Ken Clarke causes controversy for his own party.

    In other news, dog bites man.

  20. Adam
    March 23, 2009

    What John reports is absolutely classic behaviour by the BBC.

    They did have an editorial line: ‘The Tories should not play political games and should focus on what they would vis a vis credit crunch, banks, the real economy etc etc.’

    I agree entirely with that. However, we see from John’s example the BBC being given a straight choice between:

    A: Political game playing. (Deliberately trying to use Ken’s remark to damage the Conservatives.)


    B: Giving a platform for discussions about how the UK can limit the depth and length of the recession. (Discussing John’s ideas for a better way of tackling broken banks.)

    They much preferred option A. It is an easy choice for them because the media, like Vince Cable, never really have to think seriously what they would do if they were given the chance to govern the country.
    Like me, the BBC want politicians to be honest and responsible. I wish they would also look to their own house.
    They should remember that, like politicians, they are public servants.

  21. Matt
    March 23, 2009

    This was always going to be a risk when Mr Clarke was returned to the fold – I’m not sure that it was a misplaced word, nor I’m sure were the BBC.

    I suppose the leadership thought he would deflect the Lord Mandelson appointment as the public is seen to like his down to Earth image. The other side of the coin is that he is incapable of being on the short leash that he needs. His gaffes will outweigh his merits. These things always come to haunt you in the end.

    Any statements that he makes will be scrutinised and seized upon.

    This won’t be his last gaffe before the election stand by for the great Euro gaffe

    March 23, 2009

    It was good to see JR on the Daily Politics this morning bringing the banking arguments we know here so well to a wider audience.
    We thought he out-argued ‘St Vincent’ with the commercial ‘tough love’ approach v nationalisation and the longer this runs the more we see that would have been the right way to protect the public and clip the bankers’ wings.

    The passion of JR’s utter condemanation of the way the banks are giving us the runaround came across well and, frankly, reflects the voters’ feelings better than the so-called charisma polis generally do.

    Whilst not falling into the anti-McNulty trap his unequivocal response on MP expenses was timely. If the starting point is ‘voter value’ and not salary makeweight the issue is quite plain to evaluate. There must be a wide disparity between a well-run businesslike MPs office and the ones that are vehicles for family interests and we’d like to see the differences revealed.

    With the end of Labour in sight we must be alert to every potential fiddle in the book in the awarding of contracts, feathering of future nests and maximisation of lurks n perks.
    We’d like to see a Conservative member overseeing the dangers and ringing the warning bells where necessary.
    We see a role here for David Davis with his experience on the Public Accounts Committee and his tenacious way of nailing his prey…just ask Beverley Hughes, David Blunkett and Charles Clarke!

  23. Jonathan Cook
    March 23, 2009

    I have just seen you ask the Prime Minister the total amount of tax payers money is at risk.

    I can’t believe that Brown used out of context comments to deride you and then didn’t answer the question.

    Brown is a vile coward.

    Keep up the good work John.

  24. Tim
    March 23, 2009

    I went to the cinema last week to watch Young Victoria an enjoyable film about the life of Princess/ Queen Victoria.

    Precedding the film were two adverts promoting the BBC. I am sure that British Cinema’s appreciate the support, but can the be any justification for this waste of public money.

  25. Adam
    March 23, 2009

    Thanks to Essex Boys for pointing out that JR was on DP. I’ve now watched the clips. In light of that I feel I have to do a Ken and modify my earlier remarks.
    DP presented a good discussion between John Redwood and Dr Cable. John was absolutely on top form.

  26. bill
    March 23, 2009

    I see that Mr Clarke is up to his old tricks again. His methods are quite familiar to those who remember the Tory government. Mr Clarke comes to an agreement on a course of action with his colleagues. He then calls the press and reports a version which is at variance or slightly askew from what has been agreed. The opposition makes hay with the “divisions” in the conservative ranks.Mr Clarke then appears in an emollient manner and glosses over the differences.It is a calculated strategy . I seem to remember this happening three or four times.

    It has now quite clearly become a habit.Since his return we have now had two or three occasions in which Mr Clarke appears to be off message AND which Labour has exploited.

    I hope someone will have the gumption to tell him :WE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE UP TO MR CLARKE WE ARE FED UP WITH IT AND IF THERE IS ONE MORE OCCASION YOU SPEAK OUT OF TURN THEN YOU WILL BE SACKED. or maybe just a website of his version of tory policy compared to the real one. the first person to spot 4 gaffes wins a box of cigars.

    Can the conservatives not find someone else with his blokey Baldwinesque persona so he can be ditched.

    1. APL
      March 23, 2009


      Sacked isn’t sufficient, deselected would be more appropriate to the sort of serial disloyalty that’s Clarke’s forte.

      But I wouldn’t like to see him with absolutely nothing to do, I suggest we all have a whip around and get him a five year subscription to his natural party, the Labour party.

      1. bill
        March 24, 2009

        I spent a bit of time yesterday trawling through some political blogs &message boards subscribed to by members of all parties .It is a way of finding out what people are thinking. I did not find a single mention of inheritance tax anywhere.People have other preoccupations at the moment and will have until the next election.

        The only reason this subject came up is because Mr Clarke does not happen to like conservative policy on this matter and for that reason he is prepared to split the party, cause division and allow labour to exploit it.

        His loyalty to the party lies along way south of his personal ambition and agenda. The man is a menace.

  27. Simon Denis
    March 23, 2009

    The BBC must be broken up and privatised as a matter of urgent priority. Even if it were as impartial as it claims to be, the stranglehold it enjoys over the flow of information makes it incompatible with democracy.

    However, the danger today is far from merely theoretical. The BBC does indeed “take a view” and has done for many years now. It is staffed by a cabal of variously left leaning opinion formers who are incapable of furnishing the public with the genuine debate it needs. So, shortly before the election of the disastrous Obama, the Today programme ran a “discussion” in which one historian claimed that Bush had damaged America permanently whilst another suggested the damage could be repaired. The notions that no damage had been done or that America had benefited from Bush’s rule were not for one second entertained. Now, I write this as one who – for impeccably Conservative reasons – did not support the intervention in Iraq. I remain interested, nevertheless, in the views of those who did or do. I am also interested in looking at Bush’s legacy in Home affairs. This was scarcely given a hearing and you can bet your bottom dollar that we would have been told what to think about that, too.

    One incident, the left – oh, excuse me – the BBC will cry. Not so; in all sorts of areas the national broadcaster pursues a left leaning agenda. As an all pervasive example, take the way in which it has all but abolished received pronunciation in favour of a sad, metrocockney twang.

    Why should we be forced to pay in support of all this?

    1. Freddy
      March 23, 2009

      ” … in all sorts of areas the national broadcaster pursues a left leaning agenda…. ”

      Such as their increasingly bonkers adherence to the religion of global warming.

      P.S. Sophie Raworth for Director General !

      1. Stuart Fairney
        March 24, 2009

        I am able to think of several jobs better suited to where Ms Raworth’s manifest talents lie.

        1. Freddy
          March 24, 2009

          Harrumph, yes, but leaving that aside, she is the only interviewer I have seen discomfiting the awful Mandelson. More, please.

  28. mikestallard
    March 23, 2009

    I can only say how very pleased I am with the attitude of our host.
    It must be enormously difficult for him to sit on his hands while the economy, the banks and the pound stirling are callously destroyed.
    It must be very hard not to put the boot in when his fellow team members are in trouble too. A lot of politicians would have done exactly that, believe me.
    Yet here we have someone who is actually loyal to his leader.

    PS I do not blame the BBC, the Telegraph or whatever (all the other papers seemed to be praising the late Jade Goody). They have to make a living out of manufactured stories too.

    PPS Funny, isn’t it, how when a minister (claims-ed) from the country three people’s salary for a house (lilved in by his parents-ed), the whole of parliament gets the blame. When a politician loyally refuses to go on the Tele. nobody notices! Politicians are not all cheap crooks!

  29. mikestallard
    March 23, 2009

    No. Ken Clarke is justifiably one of the best politicians in the Conservative ranks. Perhaps you have forgotten how excellently he handled the economy up to 1997 when the Labour took it over? He started, remember, from “Black Wednesday” too.
    Yes, he is out of date because he hasn’t noticed the changes in the Common Market.
    On the other hand, he has the knack, on Question Time of saying exactly what people are thinking, often with a deep insight thrown in.
    Compared with Peter Mandelson, the man is a giant.
    Forgot to add good post! Looking forward to seeing the next one!

  30. Jonathan Cook
    March 23, 2009


    I have been watching you on the Daily Politics today.

    Your blog needs some sort of Obama-esque ‘donate £5 button’.

    We the people should, according to market forces, be able to donate money to the politician that we think says something relevant to our lives.

    Of course this donation will legally be given to the Conservatives, but some or all of it should be ring fenced to give you personally a campaigning platform.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Stuart Fairney
      March 24, 2009

      If that’s legal, that’s a great idea. Is it legal?

      1. APL
        March 24, 2009

        Johathan Cook: “Your blog needs some sort of Obama-esque ‘donate £5 button’.”

        Have paypal account, prepared to donate.

        Reply: Thanks. I don’t need to raise money. I read , think and write for myself and do not need more people to help me do that. What I need is more vocal support so I get more airtime as well having the blogshpere to communicate through.

        1. Freddy
          March 24, 2009

          Certainly, but, um, vocal support where ?
          Emails to the Daily Politics saying JR was good, have him more often ?
          Letters to the BBC saying we want JR on Question Time ?
          Comments on BBC/newspaper blog sites ?
          Sorry, but I have no idea which, if any, of these are helpful for you.

          Reply: I’m not fishing for praise, but Yes, if you want your view more represented on the media it does help to tell the media you want that view represented.

  31. Mike Paterson
    March 24, 2009

    I think you are grasping at straws on this one. If the Conservatives can’t get their act together on this simple, sensible and inexpensive tax policy, one has to wonder how they will cope on bigger, more complex policies. Words are important. It’s no use bleating about BBC this and BBC that. You have in front of you a government that is just about out for the count and it’s your (ie the Conservatives) job to knuckle down and attack it on every front, every day. I don’t see this happening. A child of five could do better. The Conservatives WILL win the next GE by default, but they don’t look like a government in waiting, and that worries me. Examine Cameron’s lot with Thatcher’s team in 1979 – it doesn’t bear comparison. It’s no use parading Clarke around like some prize bull at an agricultural show.

Comments are closed.