Election `97: Why lies have been stuff of all elections

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The Independent Online
Bandied allegations that Tony Blair and John Major are peddling bare-faced and despicable lies should come as no surprise to anyone; the history of the election hustings is littered with lies.

The first Labour government was defeated in the 1924 general election because of a forgery, the Zinoviev Letter, bought and disseminated by Conservative Central Office, which raised the spectre of British Communists being incited to bloody revolution.

In the 1945 election campaign, Winston Churchill said: "No Socialist system can be established without a political police ... They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed, in the first instance."

Some first-time voters might not have been born in April 1979, when the Daily Mail published a front-page report headlined: "Labour's Dirty Dozen: 12 big lies they hope will save them."

One election statement that hangs round Mr Major's neck like a political albatross is his statement during the last election that, "We have no plans and no need to extend the scope of VAT".

Yesterday, at Labour's election press conference, Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, said of Mr Major: "He lies when he says that the tax burden has not increased since the last election.

"Everybody who pays tax, who pays VAT, who pays National Insurance, who gets mortgage tax relief, and married couple's allowance, everybody who pays taxes knows that the tax burden has increased."

The Conservatives reply that in the financial year before the last election, 1991-92, the Treasury Red Book shows a tax burden of 36.5 per cent of national income, compared with 36 per cent in the year before this election, 1996-97. But if you take the year of the last election, 1992-93, the tax burden was 34.5 per cent, compared with 36.25 per cent this year.

In one passage of a reply to his press conference yesterday, Mr Major also suggested there should be no bust attached to the current boom - a statement that clearly defies the cyclical forces of economic gravity.