Guido really likes Danny Finkelstein, he is amusing company, always courteous and a little spiky – in a good way. He is nevertheless the poster boy for all that is wrong with Tory policy ambitions on tax and spending.
Whenever Tim Montgomerie, Fraser Nelson or Guido have had a go at him he responds in kind. Invariably we have failed to understand the subtlety of his argument, overlooked some caveat or research data. Danny usually says he agrees with our end objectives, just not our timing. Fink insists that he is by preference a tax cutter, yet he never seems to advocate tax cuts within a time-frame.
So a few questions for Danny:
- This question is about the politics of tax cutting – if, as you argue, voters don’t believe specifics about tax and spend, does precision matter less than conveying a sense of direction?
- Do you actually believe that, all things being equal, lower tax economies are higher growth economies?
- You say “I believe strongly in lower tax. But I want proper tax-cutting, based on real reform of the scope and operation of the state.” Presumably you want a smaller state. What then is your broad aspiration for the size of the state expressed as a proportion of nominal GDP? How many years do you think it might take a Conservative government(s) to get us from where we are now, to where you want to be?
Guido thinks it is important to understand Danny’s political aspirations and what his underlying thinking is because he is the Cameroon who most publicly makes the case against committing to tax cuts. He gives cover to a somewhat sheepish Tory Treasury team afraid to make the case for growth.
Like a shell-shocked First World War veteran Danny is suffering post-traumatic stress from years in opposition sat in the CRD trench with George Osborne. This is 2010, not 2001 Danny, this time the enemy will be defeated. It is possible to not just advance mere inches towards dividing lines as a result of endless tactical re-positioning, but to drive out your enemy from the territory, establishing and holding a new ideological frontline. The poverty of Tory ambition is palpable, it is not enough to defeat the enemy, capturing their ground only to continue governing in much the the same way. Guido suspects Fraser Nelson’s upcoming Keith Joseph Memorial Lecture* will call not just for the capture of the enemy’s dividing lines, put to push the enemy back to Kirkcaldy once and for all.
*February 3, Centre for Policy Studies, Fraser Nelson “Winning is not Enough”.