Tax discipline key to Tory election plan

SHADOW chancellor George Osborne has demanded discipline from Conservative activists on tax as he set out plans for policies to support the family.Mr Osborne has been incensed at critics from the right of the party who have been demanding an election promise of uncosted upfront tax cuts.

By Graham Dines

SHADOW chancellor George Osborne has demanded discipline from Conservative activists on tax as he set out plans for policies to support the family.

Mr Osborne, who said that this was the first time that his generation of Tories had a serious chance of winning a general election, has been incensed at critics from the right of the party who have been demanding an election promise of uncosted upfront tax cuts.

Although he used his conference speech to declare “I want lower taxes,” he warned that Conservative hopes of victory at the General Election could be dashed if voters fear they will put tax cuts ahead of economic stability or the health service.

“To those who still want us to make upfront promises of tax cuts now, we say: We will not back down,” he told delegates. “We will not be pushed or pulled. We will stick to our principles. We will do what is right.

“I am not going to write my 2009 Budget in 2006. For the British people are sick of politicians who promise more than they deliver. We will deliver more than we promise.”

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Party leader David Cameron has been asking tax activists to turn down the volume on the subjects, but one of the advocates, Edward Leigh - chairman of the backbench all-party Public Accounts Committee - believes many core Tory voters will switch to the UK Independent Party in protest.

That fear was heightened as UKIP supporters walked up and down the promenade close to the conference, urging Tories to come across to them.

And the conference heard former party chairman Lord Tebbit win cheers by brandishing the 1979 and 1987 manifestos and call for the tax-cutting agenda of Margaret Thatcher's administrations.

But Mr Osborne hit back, quoting Lady Thatcher herself in support of the new mantra that economic stability must take priority. “As Margaret Thatcher herself said: 'I am not prepared ever to go on with tax reductions if it meant unsound finance.' She was right on that as on so much else.'”

Mr Osborne said: “Surely we must have learnt from three election defeats this simple truth: We must win the argument on the economy.

“We will never do that if people believe our tax policy comes at the expense of their public services. That will not happen.

“We will share the proceeds of growth between the lower taxes this country needs and the increases in spending on public services every government should provide.”

The high mortgage rates that followed John Major's decision to join the European ERM in the early 1990s were part of the reason why the Tories had been out of power for a decade, said Mr Osborne.

“I am not going to allow that to happen again.” And he earned rousing applause when he declared: “I want people to know this from us: we will never link our currency or join the euro.

“I want people to hear this party say with one voice that economic stability will always come first. And let that be clear when we talk about taxes.”

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