So Gordon is selling himself as a champion of the middle classes. There is, as various commentators have pointed out, more than a little bit of hyposcrisy about that. But the thing that strikes me most about our PM’s change of tack is how similar it is to Darling’s honesty over cuts last weekend.
Like Darling’s admission, it represents some sort of progress for Labour: on paper, the politics of aspiration should play better – and have wider appeal – than the crude class war that they’ve engaged in recently. But, also like Darling’s admission, it highlights just how inconsistent the government have been over the last few months. I mean, a government which only weeks ago proposed national insurance hikes – and which has, day after day, cast misleading aspersions about the Tories’ inheritance tax plan – is now talking about aspiration? Get away.
The simple fact is that Labour’s policy is now determined by who is on top in the stuggle between Brown and Balls, on one side, and people like Mandelson and Darling, on the other. Any shift in the power relations between now and the next election, and we’re likely to see a different emphasis again. This does not a credible government make.
There’s plenty of room for the Tories to highlight this inconsistency – and I expect they’re dusting off their post-PBR poster as I type. But, as Guido points out, that’s also rather dependent on them standing up for aspirational folk themselves. Like James, I think the Tories would benefit from following the Lib Dems’ lead here, and raising tax(-free) threshholds. Sure, the next government won’t be able to afford too many tax cuts – but there’s a strong economic, as well as moral, argument in favour of reducing tax at lower end of the spectrum.