It is no secret that the budget is expected to see an announcement of the raising of the income tax threshold. It is no secret because Clegg is boasting at every opportunity that he can that this is a LibDem policy to help the low paid. With some justice, co-conspirators will remember that Daniel Finkelstein argued that raising the threshold was unaffordable and “punk tax cutter” Guido argued it was affordable and politically savvy. Nick Clegg joined the argument about this policy before the election – on Guido’s side. In government the policy was implemented by Osborne as part of the coalition deal. Nevertheless the LibDems get all the credit for the policy from the voters.
So how could the ever political Osborne get the electoral credit for the policy? Let Guido suggest how his speech might play out:
“Mr Speaker I have received many representations, not least from the junior partners in the government coalition, about raising the minimum tax threshold by £500, I have decided to reject these representations.
Mr Speaker it is not in the country’s interest to risk the stability of the economy…
[JEERING FROM OPPOSITION BENCHES]
…it is for that reason that I have decided that now we are seeing balanced growth, falling unemployment and a stable macroeconomic outlook, to raise the tax threshold by £1,000 to £11,000. The Conservative Party is a tax cutting party and when it is prudent to do so we will cut taxes for everybody. This tax cut removes the tax burden from thousands more people on low pay.”
In one stroke Clegg is outbid on fair taxes, the policy is reclaimed for the Tories, Osborne is cheered by his backbenches and the lowest paid are better off. Even better, most of those on in-work benefits will see their benefits reduced by an equivalent amount. The Brown benefits dependency culture will be undone a little bit more…