The week that taxes took centre stage

The last seven days have seen a fundamental shift in the political debate - taxes have taken centre stage in politics, finally mirroring politically the importance that they have held domestically for some time in the lives of ordinary taxpayers struggling to make ends meet.


Last Friday, PoliticsHome's PHI5000 panel registered an important change in people's priority issues, with the economy taking top place and tax specifically overtaking law and order for the first time.


On Monday , David Cameron recognised the "pain" caused by the heavy burden of taxation and talked about the benefits of lower taxes. By targeting social problems, reducing waste and fundamentally reforming public services, he said, tax cuts could be delivered.


On Tuesday Nick Clegg followed suit, promising lower taxes on low and middle income families, and laying out the ambition of reducing the overall tax take.


That night, the strength of voters' feeling on the level of fuel duty, for example, was exemplified in the Newsnight debate and the gulf between politicians and the people on the issue was laid bare.


Wednesday saw the final day of a Conservative campaign that was founded on the issue of high taxes - Tory leaflets were replete with mentions of the 10p tax rate abolition and the high level of motoring taxes.


On Thursday night, having chalked up an overwhelming swing from Labour to Conservative, the victorious Edward Timpson MP told BBC News that the key issue in the election was "the 10p tax rate...[which] resonated time and time again on the doorstep".


Today we have a political landscape in which it is clear that people are suffering from the record level of taxation that all strata of society face. What's more, they are willing to vote for people who promise to reduce that burden and free people to spend their own money. The old idea that tax cuts were toxic because they supposedly meant worse services just isn't true any more. People have paid huge amounts more tax and have seen services get worse - they know that it's not the size of the bill, but what you do with it that counts.


The Tories have reaped the results of that change this week, but to continue doing so they have to move on with Cameron's priorities as laid out on Monday. Voters agree that taxes are too high and they are listening keenly for ways to reduce them. The stage is set for positive proposals for radical public sector reform to be put forward to deliver the lower taxes and better services that we all want and that are perfectly possible.


The really good news for taxpayers is that with Nick Clegg evidently aware of the potency of this issue, too, there is the competition factor to encourage a really radical set of ideas. The Conservatives and the Lib Dems will be jostling to be the most radical, which can only be good in terms of producing better proposals.


This week has fired the starting gun - the crowd are roaring, the engines are screaming and the flag has just gone up. It'll be a race to remember.


Posted by Matthew Elliott

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