Tory leadership challenged over tax

THE Conservatives are facing a major split after David Cameron's refusal to offer a tax cutting election manifesto was today challenged by three influential party figures.

By Graham Dines

THE Conservatives are facing a major split after David Cameron's refusal to offer a tax cutting election manifesto was today challenged by three influential party figures.

Edward Leigh, chairman of the back bench parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, said it was essential for Tories to pledge reductions or they stood no chance of being elected.

He said at least 100 of the party's 197 MPs wanted to see proposals for cuts set out immediately. “If the Conservative Party does not promise tax cuts then it's nothing,” he warned.


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Mr Leigh insisted shadow Chancellor George Osborne was “wrong” to claim that cutting taxes could destabilise the economy and backed the “moral” case for reductions.

“You can't win the next election by being all spin. You will be torn apart by Gordon Brown, who will say you are all spin.”

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He was speaking at the launch of a leaflet by the Thatcherite No Turning Back group of MPs, which was fronted by John Redwood and titled “The Case For Lower Taxes.”

In the document Mr Redwood - who heads Mr Cameron's Economic Competitiveness policy group - pleads for early tax cuts although he insisted he was not seeking to embarrass the leadership, which has repeatedly stated that cuts are secondary to maintaining economic stability.

Mr Redwood claimed Britain was “groaning under the weight of taxation.”

In a challenge to Mr Cameron, the former Welsh Secretary said: “Lower taxes are not a desirable extra that you can add when everything is going fine. Lower tax rates are the way to get everything going well.”'

He adds: "This pamphlet is a plea for early action to cut our tax rates, before more jobs have gone abroad in search of a more fertile soil for enterprise.”

Mr Redwood said his proposals to reduce corporation and business taxes would bring rewards although he acknowledged they would be politically difficult.

The Tory leader said on Sunday that he would not be “pushed around” on the issue of tax. The leadership is said to be secretly pleased that right wingers have launched their attack on tax policy at this conference so that they can dismiss it and move on.

That might be easier said than done.

Arch Thatcherite Lord (Norman) Tebbit backed the tax cutting agenda which some delegates stood outside the main entrance to the Bournemouth venue handing out lapel stickers reading “We want tax cuts now.”

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