Clarke attacks 'tax-cuts brigade'

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The Independent Online
Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, rocked the Tory boat again yesterday with an attack on his party's right-wing "tax cuts at any cost brigade".

Having been urged by the Prime Minister, John Major, to help keep the party on an "even keel", Mr Clarke moved on from this week's row over the European single currency to deal with desperate Conservative pressure for pre-election tax cuts in the November budget.

Mr Clarke said in an interview with the London Evening Standard that the current spending round was "proving quite difficult".

"I propose to do nothing in this budget that might run the risk of having to be reversed after the election," he warned.

More significantly, however, Mr Clarke specifically tried to nail suggestions that he was planning to whip up a pre-election spending spree - the boom- bust policy that Mr Major says will not be repeated. "Tax cuts can only happen if they are in the interests of the economy," Mr Clarke said.

As the tax-cuts "brigade", are by and large recruits from the same part of the Conservative Party as the Euro-sceptics, Mr Clarke is clearly unconcerned by their sensitivities in the run-up to next month's Bournemouth party conference.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister yesterday said that he had no interest in closing the single currency option, because that would push him out of the negotiations. Mr Major was speaking after a breakfast meeting with businessmen in Newbury, Berkshire.