Belfast Telegraph

VAT: Can't they lie any better than this?

By Mark Steel

This might sound smug, but I've done marvellously at sticking to my New Year's Resolution. I resolved to call George Osborne a string of rude sweary names every morning as soon as I get up and so far I've managed with hardly any trouble at all.

Yesterday was easier than normal, because he was on the radio justifying the VAT rise he promised he wouldn't impose. This rise, he said, helps the poor and penalises the rich more than a rise in income tax. This must be because most bankers, when they receive a £1m bonus, immediately spend the whole lot on crisps. Whereas the poor tend to buy items exempt from VAT, such as antiques, second homes and septic tanks.

And Osborne probably thinks if the poor are worried about VAT on things they buy, they should do what his mates do if they want to pay less tax, register their underwear in a drawer in Monaco and put their cat food in their wife's name in the Seychelles.

But if the rise in VAT places a greater burden on the rich than the poor, presumably this increase has caused untold anguish across the City of London, with wealthy shareholders screaming, "Why couldn't they have taken 10 per cent of my dividends instead of putting up the price of washing-up liquid. I'm ruined, I tell you – ruined."

There's a more worrying side to this increase, which is the decline in the standard of politicians' lies. So Cameron said at the election, "We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT", then immediately raised it to 20 per cent, and dismisses this contradiction as if it doesn't matter.

They're supposed to be more inventive than that. Even a toddler would make an effort and say, "I fell over and Jamie next door kicked me and said 20 was less than 15 and he said get up and I thought he meant put tax up on essential items except public schools and it was an accident because I forgot."

But the Coalition's deceit is so blatant they'd be better off having their policies made by one of these people in pubs who can't stop making things up. So at the next election Osborne could say, "I know a bloke who breeds polar bears; straight up, if you re-elect us I'll let you all have a ride on one. Here, guess who I'm going out with, that Emily wotsername off of Newsnight. She said I can take whatever pictures of her I like and pass them round to whoever wants a look, but only if we get back in with a majority. My brother can get you as much free money as you want, he knows the banker out of Deal or No Deal. But you've got to vote for us or he won't bother."

Instead the argument is put that on issues such as VAT and tuition fees, parties that stridently break a promise are being "grown-up", so now they're running things, abandoning the promise is a sign of maturity. Maybe this is what the wives of Cameron, Clegg or Osborne can expect if their husbands are caught having an affair. They'll say, "Oh you didn't believe all that wedding vows nonsense did you? You should be pleased you've caught me with twins in the basement, it's a sign I've grown up."

And worst of all is now it's been established that it doesn't matter at all what a party says at the election, as it's a matter of honour to do the opposite as soon as you're elected. So all that debating is a pointless exercise in which nothing can be achieved, so it might as well be treated like the last day at a school and Dimbleby should say, "With me tonight are the three party leaders, who have all been allowed to bring in games." Or the public should be allowed to swear at them all night long, because some of us like to keep our promises.

Belfast Telegraph


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