Sunday, February 11, 2007

INSIDE POLITICS - The other big thing besides Croker that happened on Dublin's Northside this weekend

Yes, goalposts (real and figurative) were being shifted all over the place on Dublin's Northside this weekend.

Labour's pre-election conference marked the moment when Pat Rabbitte officially got sick of being asked questions about Fianna Fail and possible courtships.

How he did it in three easy steps.

1. Testy attitude when being interviewed by John Bowman. We're 22 minutes into the interview and you haven't asked me questions about policy yet!

2. Brutally blunt passage in his own keynote speech intended to draw a line under the issue. This is it:

In recent weeks I have been asked not about policy or programmes or reforms, but whether, on electoral strategy, I have left the door even slightly ajar. The answer is no.

3. Time to use the ace up the sleeve. This time it was a spectacular one that was the better of every other hand. The promise to cut the standard tax rate from 20% to 18% was brilliant. It stole the PDs clothes for tax-cutting but came at it the other way round, ie aimed at everybody, not just the middle classes.
There's small print. It's not a copper fastened guarantee (there's a get-out clause!). It will be very costly, maybe prohibitively so. FG might not buy it so bye bye new policy.

But still as a coup and as a way of moving the debate on from Rabbitte and Fianna Fail, it was masterful.

We're into conference season now. Cue eight weeks of the parties trying to out-bid each other with so-called "eye-catching initiatives" and all-singing, all-dancing, policies.


Dan Sullivan said...

Strange thing about the proposed tax cuts is that everyone seems to be asking what happens when the loss of revenue (which some are claiming would be the size of Texas) means a reduction of public services or rises in taxes in other areas. I've been batting this one on It seems everyone missed Rabbitte's Gordon Brownian reference in his speech to "if economic conditions allow". So the point of the speech is that if there is the money there to do it then faced with choice between 1% off the top rate or some percentage off the standard rate then it will be some percentage off the standard rate. With the goal of knocking 2% overall off the standard rate.

Harry McGee said...


Thanks for comment. I looked at the long discussion on One of the points I make in the longer analysis piece I've written for Monday's Irish Examimer is that terms and conditions apply.
Note the clause "given the resources available" in Rabbitte's speech.
That means if there's any wobble in the economy, it ain't going to happen.
Another very legitimate question that was raised in the discussion was that increasing tax credits by a similar amount (c.E680 for those on an income of E34,000) would have benefited lower paid workers.

But politically, tax cuts go down much much better with Joe Punter. They are simple, need no explaining, unlike the more opaque (explanation wise) credits or allowance system.

Dan Sullivan said...

Agree about the "terms and conditions apply" aspect. Of course it is no more conditional that the government's commitment on the 41% to 40% change. Thing is that this announcement won't impact the PD vote much but it could hurt FF.

And it is true about altering the tax credit or the tax bands doing a better job for more lower income people. Fact is the government didn't alter the bands for 3 years and it didn't seem to hit home to the public despite the oppositions comments about stealth taxes in the same way as indexing the bands but increase the tax rate would have.

I, also, can't see FG having a problem with this proposal. In fact the perfect follow up would be to suggest a new 30something% rate between 18% and 41%. Why is it we are so fixated on having the tax rate be nice even numbers?

Harry McGee said...

Couldn't agree more with those comments. H. I'd say FG were consulted and may have an addendum of their own to add at the end of March!