We revealed last night that shadow cabinet members are unhappy that they weren’t told about Ed Balls’ announcement (last Thursday) about Labour’s plans for a £13bn a year VAT cut. Some are not sure that it adds to the party’s economic credibility.
On one level the policy may seem unsurprising, given that Miliband and Balls both spoke out loudly against the rise from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent at the start of January. But in the political world, opposing a rise is not the same as pledging to reverse it.
As Balls himself told the Daily Politics three months ago (March 14):
‘We’ve made no commitments at all, it would be a totally irresponsible way for an opposition to behave. What we have said is the VAT rise was unfair and the wrong tax rise, we have said a permanent CPI shift is unfair. But I said very clearly yesterday as Shadow Chancellor I cannot come along and make commitments to reverse those things’
Don’t be surprised if this quote comes up today as Balls and George Osborne debate the economy again.
UPDATE: The argument from the Balls team is that this is perfectly consistent: “This is not a commitment about what a future Labour government would do.” The point being that by 2015 the temporary measure would no longer be needed.