Monday, 1 October 2007

Conservative policy offers

Apparently we are going to see a lot of policy offers from the Conservatives this week as they try to tempt voters to back them. Whilst publicly calling for an immediate election, behind the scenes they hope that they can avoid one.

I was invited on to Radio West Midlands Drive Time programme to comment on two of the goodies on offer. I wasn't very impressed by the pledge to increase the inheritance tax threshhold to £1 million. This issue excites Daily Mail readers a lot but most of them are going to vote Conservative anyway.

Given the level of house prices, I (or my estate) would probably be beneficiaries of such a move. But given that Britain is becoming a more unequal society, do we will want to weaken the one form of wealth tax we have?

Of course, the counter argument is that the very rich are able to arrange their affairs to escape such taxes and the burden falls mainly on the moderately well off. However, the Conservative idea of paying for this tax cut by taxing citizens domiciled abroad may be difficult to implement in practice and revenues could disappoint.

Raising the threshhold at which stamp duty is paid on property purchases is probably more electorally attractive given that it would benefit many first time buyers who are struggling to purchase. Of course, the longer term solution here is to do something about the supply and demand balance of housing in England, but no party is willing to take that on because of the strength of the conservationist lobby.

What is sometimes overlooked in discussions of election prospects is that the Conservatives would not need a very big shift in votes to take quite a lot of southern marginal seats off the Lib Dems and Labour. Anecdotal vox pops suggest a lot of uncertainty among voters there with younger women, for example, seeing Dave as 'fresh' and 'new'.

Peter Riddell have a good piece in The Times yesterday on 'Seven Deadly Signs for Brown': Riddell

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