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UK Opposition Leader Stakes Future On Tax-Cutting Agenda

by Jason Gorringe, Tax-News.com, London

24 December 2002


UK Tory Leader Ian Duncan Smith yesterday committed his party to fight for lower taxation at the expense of public spending in an interview with right-wing newspaper the Sunday Times.

"As an abiding principle, an incoming Conservative government will be a lower-tax, lower-regulation government than this government is," said IDS, as he is known, perhaps responding to lower-than-ever opinion polls which threaten both his and the Tories' position, by returning to a traditional Tory platform on taxation. IDS admitted that the party's platform at the last election lacked credibility and said that he would be issuing alternative policies in the next few months. "We are certainly going to make sure we now campaign on what we know we want to do . . . for example, to be absolutely sure about our position as regards to tax," he said.

However, Shadow Chancellor (finance spokesman) Michael Howard refused later on a radio programme to commit himself to tax cuts, saying he could not promise to cut taxes in his first Budget on coming to power and spending on public services might even have to go up in the short term for Tory reforms to work.

“A Conservative government will always be a lower tax government than a Labour government, but we have to sort out the public services and that means I can’t as Shadow Chancellor say today in my first Budget we will definitely cut taxes,” he told BBC Radio. “There may be transitional costs. Our system may take a little bit of time and it may take a little bit of money as well.”

Mr Howard is a supporter of IDS, and presumably didn't mean to hurt him; but his comments will have undermined the leader still further, and his survival must now be more than ever in doubt. It probably now depends on a decent showing in next May's municipal elections, which in the past have often meant life or death for embattled political leaders in the UK.


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