No matter how bad it gets...

...they still can't resist nannying us. Reflecting on the PBR, it's interesting that despite all of Alistair Darling's rhetoric about how seriously he was taking this crisis and how important the VAT cut will be to business and consumers, the Government's nanny state instincts still won out when it came to tax on cigarettes, alcohol and fuel. Unfortunately, Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley seems to think a recession is a good time for some bracing puritanism too.

The VAT cut is a necessary and welcome help to shops and to shoppers, so it is wrong economically as well as morally to refuse to let it take effect on things the Government disapproves of. For many families, fuel is a massive proportion of their weekly bills and a cut in price at the pumps would be extremely welcome. Alcohol and cigarettes are two of the reasons that the poor are disproportionately hit by VAT, and yet they won't see any benefit on their outgoings. Pubs are going under at the rate of three or four a week, and yet for all the talk about SMEs needing help, they aren't going to be allowed to benefit from the VAT cut.

Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown and Andrew Lansley have got to realise that whilst they might have been able to get away with this kind of paternalist price inflation by diktat when things were good, in a crisis that kind of bossy government is a luxury that should go out of the window.

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