Tory leadership hopefuls are dishing out fantasy commitments like confetti

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Tory leadership hopefuls are dishing out fantasy commitments like confetti



Tax cuts, doubling the defence budget, pumping billions into schools…the Tory leadership contest has descended into the worst kind of fantasy politics.
Eagerly trying to outbid each other, the candidates behave, not as the potential next Prime Minister, but as irresponsible, immature agitators, full of incredible promises and far-fetched pledges.
4 Boris has pledged to cut taxes for the ‘haves’Credit: AFP or licensors
So front-runner Boris Johnson comes up with a colossally expensive package of tax cuts for the better-off, while his rival Jeremy Hunt says he wants to double the defence budget in a decade.
Even more dementedly, Michael Gove pledges to scrap VAT as part of a wholesale revolution in the system for indirect taxation.
This is absurd on many levels.
For a start, in the real world the Government does not have the room for massive spending increases or lavish tax cuts, because the public finances have not fully recovered from the crash of 2008.
In addition, there could be tough times ahead, reflected in yesterday’s worrying official figures which showed a contraction in the British economy.
More importantly, the Tories do not have a majority in the House of Commons, thanks to Theresa May’s bungled election in 2017, so any radical policy will be blocked by MPs.
In truth, the Government has no space for manoeuvre. The leadership contenders’ initiatives are little more than wishful thinking.
Above all, the expensive promises are just a gigantic distraction from the real task ahead: the delivery of Brexit. That is what really matters. Everything else is an irrelevance.
4 Michael Gove says he will abolish VAT and replace it with a sales taxCredit: EPA
The Tories’ entire future depends on the achievement of British independence. If that goal is reached, there is a chance of recovery, especially against the divided, ineptly-led Labour party.
But if the Tories fail to implement Brexit, they will be annihilated at the next General Election, a truth reinforced by the Peterborough by-election last week, when the Tories, in territory they have traditionally held since 1950, were squeezed into a distant third place by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
Yet the leadership candidates continue dishing out their frivolous commitments like confetti. Here are just some of the ill-conceived promises made on the campaign trail so far…Gove scrapping VAT
Cocaine enthusiast Michael Gove says he will abolish VAT and replace it with a sales tax.
The move could be ruinously expensive for the Government, for VAT brings in almost £140 billion-a-year. Most other countries in the world have a form of VAT.
As Paul Johnson of the Institute of Fiscal Studies puts it, Gove’s proposal would be “the biggest, riskiest, and most disruptive change in the tax system in at least half a century.”
Boris looking out for the ‘haves’
The front runner Boris Johnson caused enormous controversy – and damage to himself – with his plan to cut tax for high earners by raising the 40 per cent threshold from £50,000-a-year to £80,000-a-year.
His scheme would not only be cripplingly expensive to the Treasury, costing at least £9.6 billion-a-year, but also is unlikely to win over less well-off voters, who should be the Tories’ prime target.
According to one study yesterday, fewer than one in ten workers in the West Midlands would be winners.
It might be noted, however, that MPs would be big gainers, for their £79,468 salary is just below Boris’s proposed new threshold.
Hunt’s war chest
Usually clear and rational, even Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been infected with the madness of the leadership contest.He recently called for a massive increase in defence expenditure because “we face a more aggressive Russia and a more assertive China.”
Is he seriously suggesting we might go to war with either of them, despite all the lessons of our failed military interventions over the last two decades.
And every one per cent increase in the proportion of national income spent on defence will cost the taxpayer at least £20 billion.
4 Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin shake hands last weekCredit: Getty – Contributor
McVey’s sop to the unions
Esther McVey likes to pose as a tough northerner, but she is a soppy left-winger when it comes to schools.
Sounding like a typical Labour MP, she bleated last week about “severe under-funding in schools” and said that “it’s time we started listening to the teaching unions,” as she promised an extra £4 billion-a-year.
But the unions are they last people we should listen to on education.
Addicted to serial whingeing, they have opposed every single sensible reform over recent years, while they have invented the so-called funding crisis for their own political ends.
4 Esther McVey said there was severe under-funding in schools
Hancock’s home ‘scandal’
Joining in the prodigality, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has pledged both an extra £3.5 billion for the social care system and a new insurance scheme to end the supposed “injustice” of homes sold to meet care costs.
But is this really a scandal? Why should ordinary taxpayers have to fork out to protect the inheritances of the affluent?
Javid’s grand gesture
Home Secretary Sajid Javid promises a whopping £500 million to Ireland as a “grand gesture” to solve the Brexit border problem, for which he has also advocated the use of new technology.
But his proposal is both expensive and unworkable. As one Government official points out, “No Government worldwide currently controls different customs arrangements with no physical infrastructure at the border.”
Raab’s tax cuts
Ex-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who sees himself as a Thatcherite, calls for slashing tax cuts for the low-paid, by raising the threshold at which employee national insurance contributions start from £8100 to £12,500, an average saving of £462-a-year.
He also proposes a penny off income tax for everyone, part of his drive ultimately to lower the basic rate from 20p to 15p. But such steps would significantly shrink the tax base, as well as cost the Government as much as £30 billion-a-year.
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Given that these candidates aspire to run the country, the leadership contest has been a depressing spectacle so far. Its excesses reflect the Tory party’s flight from serious statesmanship.
Matt Hancock describes the contest as a “great festival of ideas.”
It is more like a carnival of amateur illusionists desperately hoping their tired tricks will distract us from the Tories failure to deliver Brexit.

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