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Sunday, October 2, 2022

Tory chair says taxation at ‘high water mark’ as Conservative party spring conference starts – UK politics live | Politics

Good morning. We are going to be hearing a lot from the Conservative party today, because the UK party is holding its spring conference in Blackpool and the Scottish party is holding its own one in Aberdeen. Boris Johnson is at the Scottish one, which might be awkward for both sides. Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative party leader, has only recently withdrawn his letter calling for Johnson’s resignation, and although the war in Ukraine made Johnson’s leadership much more secure, he is still far from being a vote-winner in Scotland.

Ahead of the conference in Blackpool, Oliver Dowden, the Conservative party co-chairman, has given an interview to the Daily Telegraph’s Christopher Hope for his podcast, Chopper’s Politics. (Chopper is his Hope’s nickname.) In it, Dowden claimed taxation has now reached the “high water mark” under the party. He said:

We can’t have taxes going up any more. The direction has to be downwards, and I think people get that.

I didn’t join the Conservative party to make it take more people’s money away in taxation. The people that know best how to spend money are people themselves, not the government. And by the way, despite all the great things we were able to do during the Covid crisis, my conviction has only increased.

There is nothing particularly unusual about a Tory chair saying this, but there is a conflict between what the party wants and the demands facing government, or what economists might call reality. The Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank explained this will in a briefing yesterday in which it said raising taxation was now the “new normal” for government. It said:

Tax-raising governments have, over the last 30 years, become the norm.

Tax rises since 2010 have in part been a response to a weakening of the public finances (in particular an increase in the structural deficit), caused initially by the financial crisis and more recently by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such pressures will likely be compounded by surging energy prices and the conflict in Ukraine. But governments have also faced an ageing population that demands both more, and more expensive, health and social care …

Looking further ahead, whether this government cuts taxes in the short run, or finds a way to cut some taxes before the next election, the longer-term direction of travel is clear. This government will not be the last to raise taxes in face of the inexorable spending pressures of an ageing population.

This graph from the IFS briefing illustrates the point.

Tax as share of GDP

Tax as share of GDP Photograph: IFS

Here is the agenda for the day.

11am: Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, speaks at the Conservative party’s spring conference in Blackpool. There are also speeches on the main stage from Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, at 11.35am; Oliver Dowden, the Conservative party co-chair, at 12.30pm; Sajid Javid, the health secretary, at 3pm; Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, at 3.30pm; Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, at 3.45pm; and Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, at 5.15pm.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

12pm: The ONS publishes its weekly Covid infection survey.

12.10pm: Sunak address the Scottish Conservative party’s spring conference in Aberdeen by video link.

4pm: Boris Johnson speaks at the Scottish Conservative party conference.

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