Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson needs free rein in these taxing times

A new weekly column by the Press Association's veteran political insider

By Chris Moncrieff

The Tories would be well-advised not to be as reckless about taxation pledges as they were at the last General Election if they are to head for the big win on June 8, as the opinion polls suggest. But Chris Moncrieff warns that the polls can be very wrong in their predictions, and dangerously deceptive.

It is all very well for the Conservatives to boast during the General Election campaign that they are the party of lower taxes. But they will surely not be so crass and stupid on this issue as they were at the last General Election.

In their manifesto then, they effectively promised, quite ludicrously, that there would be no taxation, VAT or national insurance increases during the entirety of that Parliament, which was expected to run until 2020.

This statement tied the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer behind his back and gravely curtailed his freedom of movement.

Now, of course, this act of folly has come back to haunt them as the new campaign gets under way. How on earth would they know about the state of the economy during the following years which might precipitate a tax increase?

Now the Prime Minister and her Cabinet colleagues are doing their best to fob off with non-answers probing questions from their opponents about whether there will be tax rises during the coming Parliament.

They will be hounded on this issue from now until June 8 - because what the voters really want to know is whether, at the end of it all, they will have more or less money in their pockets.

The Prime Minister will also be canny enough to warn would-be Tory voters against complacency, as the opinion polls now point to a big Conservative win. She will say the polls can be horribly wrong and dangerously deceptive.

Meanwhile, I see that some do-gooding busybodies have been imploring the Prime Minister to keep Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson out of sight during the campaign because, they claim, he will cost the Conservatives votes if he is allowed to roam free.

Bunkum and balderdash! Boris Johnson is one of the very few politicians at Westminster who is actually listened to by the electorate. He is funny, colourful and, unlike almost all his colleagues, does not speak in political riddles.

It is good to know that those who ordain these things have taken no notice of the faint-hearted and will allow Boris a free rein during the campaign.

Good for them!

The British Communist Party plainly thinks Jeremy Corbyn is just the bee's knees - indeed they so admire him that they will not be fielding any candidates in the campaign for the first time for nearly a century.

But this situation may not appeal to traditional Labour voters. Many of them will find the idea of Labour hand-in-glove with the communists quite abhorrent.

The communists want Corbyn to secure the maximum number of votes, so they are putting all their resources into supporting him, rather than in fielding candidates that would cost Labour votes.

It has yet to be seen whether the communists' stance will help or hinder Labour's campaign.

The final Prime Minister's question time of the Parliament was a nostalgic affair, rambling on for almost an hour, twice its normal length. Miraculously the Speaker, John Bercow, did not once interrupt the exchanges between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, a considerable relief to those watching and listening.

The Prime Minister seemed besotted with the phrase "coalition of chaos", which she had used in a speech earlier in the week. During the Commons exchanges she used it four - or was it five? - times in that single hour.

There were some moving moments when the Speaker picked out some of the long-serving old-timers who will be leaving the Commons. Voluntarily, that is.

The Speaker even had some nice things to say about Tory Simon Burns -the two have been at daggers drawn almost from the day Bercow was elected Speaker.

Apart from some sharp exchanges between May and Corbyn, this was the nearest thing to a love-in I have seen in the House of Commons. Not a snarl to be heard.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, a devout Christian, was absolutely right to want to keep to himself his private views on gay sex. After all, this is not an issue at the General Election.

Some opponents assumed his initial refusal to respond to their demands about his stance on this issue implied he was against it.

He finally said that he did not think gay sex was a sin, but I wish he had not succumbed to his tormentors and instead had left them fuming at what they considered his illiberal attitude.

The trouble is that these days you are not allowed to hold what is regarded as an unfashionable view of such matters. And you are treated with contempt for not following the herd.

It is outrageous that people who hold genuine views not in line with current fashions can find themselves prosecuted and in court. This is intolerance writ large, bordering on fascism.

This must be the most telling quotation of the election campaign so far: "Walk the corridors of Westminster, and round every corner you encounter the pale faces of the living dead. Labour MPs look like patients who have just had the bad news from the oncologist: it's mortal, it's terminal, far too late now for anything more than palliative care". That comes from the pen of left-wing commentator Polly Toynbee.

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