That the Conservatives were going to announce a marriage tax allowance at their party conference had to be one of the worst kept secrets in Westminster since the date of the last general election. So they’ve managed to go one better than the £750 allowance proposed by their 2010 manifesto with David Cameron announcing in the Daily Mail tomorrow that people will be able to transfer £1,000 of their personal tax allowance to their spouse or civil partner.
Cameron has written in the Mail about his personal belief in marriage, adding:
‘When I ran for the leadership of my party back in 2005, I said that I wanted to do more for marriage in the tax system: a personal pledge that I made right at the start of my campaign – and I then backed that up with a pledge in our manifesto at the last election. So this week at the Conservative Party’s conference in Manchester I’m going to deliver on the promise I made.’
He is indeed delivering on the promise he made, but partly because the fulfilment of this promise had become the compensation demanded by Tory backbenchers who opposed gay marriage and felt it has seriously damaged support for their party at grassroots level – and among social conservatives who have long voted for the party. And it’s therefore interesting that in his Mail article, Cameron makes an explicit reference to gay marriage, saying how proud he was of the Equal Marriage legislation. He writes:
‘And of course this will be true if you’re gay or straight – and in a civil partnership or a marriage. This summer I was proud to make Equal Marriage the law. Love is love, commitment is commitment.’
Most would have bet reasonable sums of money on the PM trying to avoid all reference to gay marriage this week. Instead he has made clear that this isn’t just something for heterosexual couples furious about gay marriage, but a way of strengthening all types of marriage (not all marriages though: it will benefit four million couples and is not available to higher rate tax payers). Cameron still clearly believes that the bitterest battle of his premiership so far has been worth it.