The ceremony is over, cake is cut. David Cameron will on Saturday unveil a £550m marriage tax break — funded by a levy on banks of at least £1bn.
It’s a transferable allowance for married couples on the basic rate of income tax. If the wife or husband stays at home, it knocks up to £150 off the working partner’s tax bill. Clever politics. But the economics looks a bit less convincing. Here is the Institute for Fiscal Studies take on the measure. And this is my breakdown of the pros and cons:
The shadow home secretary has back-pedalled on his claims that B&B owners should be allowed to turn away gay couples. He was conspicuously absent from PMQs on Wednesday, as a survey of gay people found their support for the Tories dwindling.
Grayling may yet make it into a Tory cabinet. Rumours of his imminent demise are already circulating, however.
The Big Announcement Dave mounts an Etonian kind of coup and announces the election before Brown emerges from palace. Mr Great Ignored makes his début. Queen agrees to dissolve parliament as long as the first campaign week will be devoted to discussing Whitehall efficiency savings. Brown gathers cabinet around him outside Downing Street so people realise he is a middle class team player. But the Big Mo and Big Business are with the Tories.
National Insurance Row Cameron sweeps the first round of the air war, framing the debate about waste and tax cuts rather than the £167bn deficit. Business chiefs score stands at about 86 -1.5 . Osborne stock rebounds to historic highs. Labour look rattled, struggle to find a counterargument that cuts through. But a Tory efficiency guru rides to their help by suggesting the Tory plans would cut the public sector payroll by 40,000. Meanwhile, a baffled electorate reach out for their remote control.
The Treasury Mandarins, I am told, are weeping into their (Earl Grey) tea. Whatever happened to the age of austerity?
When David Cameron gave his party conference speech last autumn austerity was the big idea. The Conservatives, he said, were ready to do their historic duty and clean up the fiscal mess left by Labour. Big spending cuts were a certainty and nobody should think about tax cuts during a first Tory term.
I’ve written an extensive FT Weekend magazine piece about the British TV election debates with a few more details about the party-broadcaster negotiations.
Meanwhile here are six highlights from past US presidential debates to get you in the mood for next Thursday, when Brown-Cameron-Clegg face off for the first time.
1] George Bush senior checks his watch (it’s in the first few seconds of the clip)
Business leaders who backed the Tory NI policy have been deluged with “hundreds” of emails pleading with them to change their minds. Only problem is – they all have almost identical phrasing (apparently there are two or three versions). Even more pathetically, many haven’t even bothered to write in the name of the relevant chief executive.
I believe this is known as an “astroturf” (fake grassroots) campaign.
As part of the FT’s expert election panel, our three contributors will occasionally be giving their thoughts on the big election news story of the day. Today, we asked for their thoughts on efficiency savings and the war on cuts. Get to know our panelists in their video introduction.
The Independent’s lead story caught my eye this morning. It wasn’t especially surprising but it raised the interesting notion of tactical voting.
The Indy led with a story that Lord Adonis, the widely respected transport secretary (and former FT journalist before his career plummeted downhill!) has called on Lib Dem voters to vote tactically to keep David Cameron out. Well, yes I’m sure he has; it’s the kind of the thing you do if you are a Labour cabinet minister – especially if you are a former member of the SDP and Liberal Democrats, as his Lordship is. Incidentally, Lord Adonis speaks only of seats where a Lib Dem vote could damage Labour. He says nothing about what Labour voters should do in Lib Dem/Conservative marginals. Given his intelligence this may simply come down to practical politics and an assumption that Labour voters will get the message anyway but a true commitment to a joint effort to keep the Tories out requires Labour supporters to vote Lib Dem where they are the main challengers to the Conservatives.
Labour NEC member Peter Kenyon brings word from Nottingham East* where there are rumblings of local discontent over the selection. Last night it was decided to have an open (not women-only) shortlist.
That clears the way for a face-off between Jonathan Ashworth, a political adviser from Downing Street, John Collins, local council leader, and Chris Leslie, head of the New Local Government Network and – apparently – favourite of the leadership. Leslie was part of the 1997 intake but didn’t last long. Prepare for fratricide.
It is one of the centrepieces of the Labour manifesto: a “living wage” of £7.60 an hour* for some of the lowest-earning public sector workers in Britain. Earlier this week it was flagged up as a policy which could help 100,000 people.
Instead, the policy will be restricted to Whitehall staff in London, excluding those in the NHS or quangos. I’m told by grassroots group London Citizens – who have led the charge on this – that it will help 2,000 contract cleaners and service staff working in departments.