Tories discover the magic money tree

Michael Gove © Getty Images
Gove has reckless big ideas

Many of the ten Tory leadership candidates have “set off” on the race “kicking great lumps out of fiscal orthodoxy” and “spraying us all with whopping great promises” about their tax and spending plans, says Alf Young in The Times.

Dominic Raab says that he will raise the starting point at which national insurance contributions are levied from just over £8,600 to £12,500 and cut 5p off basic-rate income tax over five years. The total cost of this would be £32bn a year. Boris Johnson promises to raise the point at which higher-rate income tax is levied in England from £50,000 to £80,000, offsetting the cost by extending the national-insurance threshold to the same level – a move that will appeal hugely to rich pensioners (who no longer pay for their state pension, and who, not coincidentally, are well represented in the party’s membership and will be choosing Theresa May’s successor). Johnson is also refusing to pay our £39bn debt to the EU, “making Britain a rogue state”, says Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt wants to slash UK corporation tax from 19% to 12.5%, at a cost of £13bn a year (it was 28% ten years ago), and increase defence spending by at least £20bn a year.

As for Michael Gove’s big idea to abolish VAT, which raises nearly £140bn a year, and replace it with a sales tax, that would be the “biggest, riskiest and most disruptive change” in the tax system in more than 50 years, says Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, in The Times. He should perhaps ask himself why countries around the world are moving in “precisely the opposite direction”. British politics has “become so routinely shocking that sometimes you have to remember to be surprised”, says Robert Shrimsley in the Financial Times. “Supposedly serious candidates ” are trashing economic discipline. “The once fabled ‘magic money tree’ is now a veritable arboretum of impossible pledges.”