Parties ‘tying themselves in knots’ ruling out tax hikes, thinktank boss warns


Politicians should stop tying themselves in knots in promising not to raise taxes, the head of an influential thinktank told Sky News – warning it could lead to something worse.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips show, Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, argued neither of the main parties wanted to talk about the scale of the financial challenge faced by the next government.

He made his comments as Labour sought to reassure voters with a manifesto guarantee not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT for five years.

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The election pledge follows the hotly-disputed Tory claim that Labour would hike taxes by £2,000.

The Conservatives argue they are now bringing taxes down after hikes in recent years, with further cuts promised as part of their election pitch.

But Mr Johnson said: “I do wish they’d stop ruling things out because they may well find that they regret that when they assume office.

“What worries me, I suppose, is that we will then end up – because they’ve ruled out the sort of simple taxes – we’ll end up with complicated and actually quite economically damaging taxes.

“Whether it’s on companies or on investment or what have you, which people can’t see.”

He added: “I just wish they would stop saying what they’re not going to do because they tie themselves in knots.

“The more they say we’re not going to increase council tax or reform council tax, we’re not going to increase income tax or national insurance contributions and so on, the more they tie themselves into doing either just not being able to raise the money they might need or raising it in ways actually more damaging than it would be if they were to do the more straightforward things.”

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Out on the campaign trail in Essex, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “We will not be raising taxes on working people. That means we won’t be raising income tax, national insurance or VAT.

“We will launch our manifesto very soon and that will have no tax surprises in it because all of our plans are fully funded and fully costed and none of them require tax rises over and above the ones that we’ve already announced.”

Sir Keir insisted “we are not returning to austerity” despite ruling out personal tax rises to pay for public services, claiming he would deliver sustained economic growth.

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Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer campaigning in Essex on Sunday

Earlier on Sky News, Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride denied that “all is lost” for the Conservative Party, despite lagging far behind in the opinion polls.

He told Phillips that “taxes are coming down” and “we can continue that journey because of our stewardship of the economy and the fact we have got a plan”.

Mr Stride argued the alternative for voters was to “go to Labour, who have got no plan, who simply are going to do this ‘Ming vase strategy’ where they’ve got a poll lead, they don’t want to say anything, tell you anything, no plan, no ideas, anything about the future”.

He said Labour hoped to “drift across the line almost without anybody noticing” and added: “To your point about whether ‘all is lost’, we have four weeks – that’s a long time in politics.”

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Stride also defended the PM’s patriotism after his D-Day gaffe

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But Labour shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood added later on the programme: “We are now all living in the economic reality left by Liz Truss and the Tories when they crashed the economy, which is still having a huge impact on family finances all over the country.

“So our fundamental promise to the British people is we are not going to make promises we can’t keep.”

Shadow Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood
Shadow Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood

She added: “We are not going to put your household finances at risk and every single proposal that we have made is fully funded, fully costed – and that is different from the Conservatives.

“Look at what they’ve started this campaign with, firstly telling lies about our proposals, but also scattergun proposals put through the Tory desperometer – anything and everything all paid by the same pot of money.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has argued a £2 hourly pay rise for care workers would help tackle shortages in the struggling sector.

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Sir Ed Davey explains his care pay rise idea

He told Phillips: “If you paid this extra money to care workers, I think people would make a choice of not working in supermarkets or Amazon warehouses and things like that because they would feel that the tough job of being a carer would be properly rewarded.”

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