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This week in Politics

The stormy shores of Dorset were not the most inviting of places last week for anyone trying to wring financial services policy details out of David Cameron’s cuddly sunshine Tories.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne is probably right not to be drawn on specific policy knowing Brown, Balls and the rest are waiting eagerly to tear apart any hint of lightweight ideas, steal anything decent for themselves or go one better than them on specific policy.

Right-wing fire brands from Norman Tebbit to Edward Leigh – and naturally John Redwood – are all putting pressure on the leadership to indicate tax areas that are prime for slashing, although Redwood was careful to back Camerons stance publicly in Bournemouth to avoid media rows and ensure the influence of his Economic Competitiveness group is not diminished.

Undoubtedly there will be philosophical differences on tax for voters to consider at the next election between a probable Brown premiership and the Osborne/Cameron double act.

Osborne indicated that although the party will not be proposing tax cuts he will be looking at the rebalancing the current tax system, giving the industry space to lobby for particular interests.

Much of Osborne’s rhetoric echoed the reasoning of the LibDem’s tax commission at their Brighton conference which put forward a tax neutral package with a major rebalancing to focus on green taxes and redistributing current tax reliefs.

Could the Tories be eyeing up some of the LibDems sparkling new tax polices to call their own under their new caring sharing agenda?

Osborne told a fringe event that among the areas to be looked at would be the current tax incentives for saving – potentially looking at reprising some variant of the Lifetime Savings Account proposed before the last election.

The Tories will also be taking a more progressive line on housing supply – exercising the NIMBY ghosts of their recent past to position themselves as the Party of the aspirational young voter looking for a first time home.

Osborne also indicated the party was looking at making competitiveness of financial services a statutory objective of the FSA to guard against damaging gold-plating.

The Party will be conducting research to analyse the effect of such a move on the industry’s competitiveness and consumer protection but it shows the Tory frontbench are listening to industry concern about over burdensome regulation.

With reports Cameron is bringing a team of ex-civil servants together after the six policy working groups have reported back to him next summer to begin a 40,000 word prospectus on policy strategy those starved of detailed policies will get what they are looking for in the end.


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