Tribune leader, 13 March 1992

And so, at long last, we know for certain that the election is on April 9. John Major’s announcement on Wednesday means that the tedious phoney war is over. Now the battle can begin in earnest.
This election is a make or break election both for Britain and for Labour. If the Tories were to win again, the country would face up to five more years of eco­nomic mismanagement, sleaze, contempt for democra­cy, obstructionism in Europe and crumbling public ser­vices. Labour, having lost four elections in a row, would be disastrously broke and demoralised. It is essential for Labour and for the country as a whole that it wins. Labour might well be fighting this election on policies somewhat different from those that Tribune would have preferred. But that is as may be. Along with party members of all persuasions, Tribune knows that a Labour government is the only hope for getting Britain back on to its feet again economically, the only hope for a fairer and more humane society, the only hope for modernising our creaking constitution.
Luckily, Labour is well placed to win. The effects of the Tories* assault in January on Labour tax policies has worn off, and this week’s budget was a damp squib. Labour is now 3 percentage points ahead in most opin­ion polls, and governing parties tend to lose support during election campaigns.
There is, however, no room for complacency. The opinion polls are desperately close, and every vote will count. The election could be won or lost during the campaign. As Larry Whitty said a couple of weeks ago, the efforts of Tribune readers could make all the differ­ence. It’s time to get those fingers out.
The bribe won’t work

Norman Lamont sprung a surprise in his budget on Tuesday: instead of simply reducing the basic rate of income tax by Ip or 2p, as everyone had ex­pected, he reduced the tax rate from 25p in the pound to 20p for the first £2,000 of taxable income. Most peo­ple in work will get £2.64 a week extra in their wage packets.
That made Neil Kinnock’s job in replying to the bud­get address on Tuesday afternoon just a little more dif­ficult than it would have been if Mr Lamont had done what he had been predicted to do. Introducing a lower band of tax for the first £2,000 of taxable income is bet­ter targeted on the low-paid than a Ip or 2p reduction in the basic rate: it is less easy to portray as a handout to the already well-off.
It is, nevertheless, just as much an attempt at elec­toral bribery as the Ip or 2p would have been, and Mr Kinnock was right to describe it as such. And, despite the Tories’ crowing, it will almost certainly prove a sin­gularly ineffective bribe. A Ip or 2p reduction in the ba­sic rate would have put significant amounts of money (more than a fiver a week, in other words) into the pockets of many skilled working class and lower middle class voters – the very people that will determine the outcome of the election in the key marginals.
For these moderately affluent voters, £2.64 is peanuts, the equiva­lent of a packet of cigarettes or a couple of pints of beer or a takeaway Chinese meal. It looks even more measly after the effects of raised excise duties are taken into account. It is emphatically not an election-winning bribe. Labour’s campaign has been given some unex­pected help.
Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.