Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Silly promises

One of the less attractive features of the New Labour years was the Blair approach of ‘solving’ everything by passing new laws.  Passing laws is something which governments can do at little cost.  It is easier than enforcing them, and easier than dealing with the root causes of problems.  It also grabs headlines.  But it doesn’t always achieve very much else.  And sometimes the new laws, passed in haste to suit the presentational needs of the government, can end up causing more problems than they solve.
It may have been a characteristic of New Labour, but it wasn’t and isn’t limited to them, as the latest promise from Cameron shows.  In an attempt to outbid some of the sillier promises on taxation being made by Miliband, he’s now promised to pass a law outlawing increases in certain taxes.  Quite apart from the minor little issue that any parliament can pass or repeal any laws it likes, making the promise rather worthless, the bidding war between the two main parties to give firm and binding commitments that they will not increase taxes is economic madness, as well as utterly dishonest.
I don’t know what the economic situation will be next year, let alone three or four years from now.  And, whatever they may say, neither do any of the politicians.  They can guess.  They can indulge in wishful thinking, donning their customary rose-tinted electoral spectacles.  But they can’t know.  And if they don’t know what the position will be three years from now, tying their hands now over what actions they can take in response is at the very least foolhardy.
More importantly, it shows, once again, their contempt for the intelligence of the electorate.  Do they really believe that the electorate cannot and will not understand a simple honest statement such as “we have no plans to increase tax A, B, or C at this stage, but of course any government must retain the freedom to change its taxation plans in the light of circumstances”?   And, given the obviousness of that statement, and the general low opinion of politicians and their promises, do they really think that anyone will believe what they say?
The Tories are keen to present Labour as financially irresponsible – yet the irresponsible commitments which they themselves are making fatally undermine their case.

1 comment:

Peter Freeman said...

Irresponsible statements do come back to bite you. I recall George H. W. Bush in his 1988 speech to the Republican Conference where he uttered the famous line "Read my lips, no new taxes" Of course he had to raise taxes during his administration and Clinton used that promise to good effect in his successful bid.
It would be refreshing to get honesty from politicians, instead of sound bites. The incumbent in Ceredigion is suffering over his party's pledge not to raise tuition fees.
There were a number of Plaid Councillors in South Wales who had a line that I liked and admired.
"You may not like what I stand for, but you'll always know where I stand"
That was an honesty that won votes.