George Osborne, shadow Chancellor: You Ask The Questions

When will you apologise for the Corn Laws? And why don't you promise to cut taxes? And
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The Tories totally messed up the economy last time they ran the country. Why should we trust you now?
STEVE CARTWRIGHT, Leeds

I don't accept the first part of the question, but let's not get into an argument about history. The issue today is: how can Britain compete? Last week we slipped again in the world league table and unemployment is on the rise. I've set out how we can turn that around but have made it clear that economic stability is our number one priority. You can trust us that if it comes to a choice, we would put stability before tax cuts.

Who would be the next Labour leader that would worry you most?
CIARA McENIFF, Glasgow

Don't tell anyone but I've always thought David Miliband would be quite a challenge.

Why have you gone off the idea of flat taxes? Was it just a gimmick to win David Cameron the party leadership?
CARLO GERSTBREIN, London

I said we should look at simpler taxes, and we are doing that with our independent Tax Reform Commission. But when I visited Estonia, last year, I pointed out that it would be difficult to introduce a pure flat tax into a mature tax system like Britain's. Simpler taxes, not a flat tax, is the way forward.

Why won't you behave like proper Tories and promise to cut our taxes?
PAMELA CUSK, Islington, London

Proper Tories put economic stability first and only reduce taxes when it is prudent to do so. Remember "sound money" is the oldest Conservative principle of all.

Do you like Gordon Brown?
JOE SMITH, Brighton

I've only properly spoken to him twice - so I don't really know him.

What will the future Conservative government do to alleviate the punitive burden of inheritance tax?
HOWARD MacRAE, Edinburgh

More and more homeowners are caught by inheritance tax because of the stealthy way Gordon Brown has fixed the thresholds. The Tax Reform Commission is looking at ways it might be reformed but I will not commit to anything specific now. Writing your 2009 Budget in 2006 is not a responsible thing to do.

Do you ever talk about post-neoclassical endogenous growth theory? Do you know what it is?
NIGEL BLAKE, Hampstead, London

Not recently. I thought I understood it until I read Ed Balls' explanation last week. I like Ed, but he does have this ability to make the simple complicated. I wonder who he learnt that from?

You profess to love cycling. Does someone carry your shoes in a car behind you?
V AHMAD, Birmingham

Sadly not. I have to make do with a rucksack.

David Cameron has apologised for Tory support for apartheid and the poll tax. When is he going to apologise for the Corn Laws?
MAX JARRETT by e-mail

That's unfair - it was the Tories who repealed the Corn Laws.

Do you care more about the Arctic Circle or the Arctic Monkeys?
PETER WEBB, Cambridge

The Arctic Circle - and I never pretended otherwise.

Which philosopher has most influence you?
ANDREW BLAKE, Edinburgh

I re-read John Stuart Mill recently. On Liberty is as relevant today as it ever was.

Whenever you meet up with Margaret Thatcher, what does she say to you?
JOANNE HARRISON, Brighton

The only time I've ever spoken to her at length she gave me some advice about how to handle Finance Bills. It wasn't much of a two-way conversation.

Will you commit the Tories to green taxation to curb environmental damage? And if so, in what areas?
DAVID O'GRADY, Stoke Newington, London

Yes. I've said that the proportions of tax revenues that come from green taxes should go up. I will spell out how closer to the election.

What is it like to be part of the Notting Hill Set?
TARA MAGUIRE, south London

Quite exciting at the moment.

Are you still in favour of "Maglev" trains to solve Britain's transport problems? And how should they be funded?
SEB O'CONNOR, Manchester

They are definitely worth looking at. China already has one and countries like Japan, Germany, the US and Switzerland are looking at them. Why should we assume they are not for Britain? The cost is high and would probably have to be met largely by private finance, but the figures produced by the Treasury to attack me are wild over-estimates. One Japanese railway executive looked at them and laughed. He said "well you can start by halving them because you don't need to protect against earthquakes in Britain".

Have you ever tried to hug a hoodie?
ANDY CORNWELL, Liverpool

Not in Liverpool, yet.

Y ou and Cameron want to withdraw Tory MEPs from the European People's Party. Why would you want to quit the sane company of Angela Merkel for Alessandra Mussolini and other political oddballs?
GRAHAM LEWIS, Reading

We're not consorting with oddballs. This week Nicolas Sarkozy and the new Prime Minister of Sweden have spoken by video to our conference - they are hardly on the margins of European politics.

I find you sexier than the supposedly attractive-to-women Mr Cameron. Do you get fan-mail that talks about growth rates that aren't economic?
J NYHAN, by e-mail

I'm not going to let my wife see this.

Which quangos can we expect a Tory government to scrap?
K WELLS, Felpham, West Sussex

For a start we'd get rid of all those expensive, unelected regional assemblies.

Would you send your children to state schools?
MELISSA STAPLETON by e-mail

They both go to a state primary school.

Who are your political heroes?
SANDY LAMB, London

As well as the usual pantheon, how about Robert Peel, for his principles, and Bobby Kennedy, for his speeches? I'd better add John McCain because I've just spent the weekend in Bournemouth with him.

You claim you are opposed to global warming, but you are also committed to "a massive road building programme." Do you think we are idiots?
JANISE DAVIES, Sussex

No - we're not committed to any road building programme that I know of. If I can get technical for a moment, we do want average emission levels from new cars in the UK to fall from a figure of around 170 grams per kilometre now to a level of 100 g/km in 2022. That would make a major contribution to cutting carbon emissions.

Do you believe the government's role is to redistribute wealth and promote equality?
BRIAN DAVIS, Ipswich

I certainly think government should redistribute some wealth to the less fortunate. I believe in equality of opportunity rather than a utopian equality of outcome.

Did you and "Dave" reach a Granita-style pact about the Tory leadership and will you ever fall out as spectacularly as Blair and Brown?
ANGUS O'FARRELL

Yes ... Only joking!

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