Journalists were told two days ago in the wake of the u-turns on the pasty tax and caravan tax that there would be no imminent decision on the charity tax. The position is the same, said Treasury officials – there will be some form of compromise with the charitable sector, but not a full u-turn, and it will come after a consultation during the summer.
Today we were told there would be no consultation, and that a full u-turn would take place immediately. What on earth is going on at the Treasury?
I am told that the megabrains in HMT decided at the beginning of the week they had no option but to drop the unpopular proposal. Since then, they have been flapping around trying to figure out how to announce it. Should they bother having the consultation anyway or should they just go ahead and announce it? And if the latter, when should they bite the bullet and do so?
It might have made sense to confirm it on the same day as the other two u-turns. But on that day, they had still not decided whether to go ahead and simply announce it at all. So it got delayed again until someone decided the day that Jeremy Hunt appeared at the Leveson inquiry would be a good time to make sure the charity tax reversal got buried.
And so we end up with the mad scramble today, as the decision gets hastily confirmed in a taped statement by George Osborne and David Gauke, the tax minister, is put in front of the World at One to field the difficult question.
And as of 2pm, the BBC is still leading with the charity tax story. No surprise – the hastily cobbled-together strategy is in danger of failing.