Why are the Tories peddling what the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has described as ‘at best unhelpful’, which is the claim that households would be hit with a £3,000 tax bombshell if Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister? The IFS’ analysis came out earlier today, but this evening George Osborne repeated the claim, saying:
‘Well it’s based on what the Labour party has voted for and what Ed Miliband has said he will do… I am confident that that is based on what the Labour party has voted for in Parliament.’
Labour is kicking up a fuss about this, naturally, with Chris Leslie saying:
‘This is a disastrous and embarrassing start to David Cameron’s campaign. Within hours of making totally false claims about Labour on the steps of Downing Street, the independent IFS has totally undermined them.’
So why did the Tories put out figures that were so easily knocked down? It’s unlikely to be because someone in CCHQ is bad at maths. The chances are that these figures were deliberately a bit dodgy in order to provoke Labour into confirming or denying what it is that they are planning to cut or which taxes they are planning to raise.
This is perhaps not particularly admirable behaviour but it is exactly the same tactic the party used with its ‘dodgy dossier’ that it launched at the start of the year on Labour’s spending commitments. That dossier forced Ed Miliband’s party to articulate further the cuts it wouldn’t reverse, and this ‘tax bombshell’ claim will do the same. Not noble politics, but effective all the same.