Clarke to resist Tory clamour for tax cuts

BY COLIN BROWN

Chief Political Correspondent

Kenneth Clarke will resist growing right-wing pressure for a commitment to tax cuts spread over three years as new divisions emerged yesterday among the Tory leadership.

The call for a reduction in taxation to be announced in advance of future Budgets appeared to get the backing of the party chairman Jeremy Hanley, but Michael Portillo, the Secretary of State for Employment, pointedly refused to give his support.

The rolling programme of tax cuts, aimed at convincing the electorate the Tories can deliver, will be pressed on the Chancellor tomorrow by the Tory backbench finance committee. The MPs see tax cuts as the trump card needed to win over growing cynicism among voters.

It will gain no sympathy from Mr Clarke, and Mr Portillo refused to give it his support in spite of being repeatedly asked to do so on LWT yesterday. Pressed by Jonathan Dimbleby on whether he agreed with Mr Hanley, Mr Portillo said: "Look, I don't know ... These matters are settled in a Budget - and a Budget is a matter which is devised by the Chancellor in consultation with the Prime Minister."

Mr Clarke will be urged by senior backbench Tory MPs to cut up to £10bn from public expenditure to make progress on the commitment to cut 5p off the standard rate of income tax of 25p in the pound. Tory strategists said it would leave Tony Blair with the dilemma of adopting Tory tax cuts, or going to the election pledged to reverse them.

Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, said it was "hypocritical" to be dangling the carrot of tax cuts, when taxes were increased from 1 April at a cost of an extra £1.10 per week for the average family

He said: "Is it any wonder that Mr Portillo admits the Government is in crisis when the chairman of the party is promoting three tax cuts, Michael Portillo refuses to back him and the Chancellor remains silent?"

The "new agenda" announced by John Major ahead of his departure to the US, where he will meet President Clinton, was seen as an attempt to head off a leadership challenge.

Mr Portillo yesterday ruled himself out of any contest for the leadership and warned plotters on the Tory right that a challenge to the Prime Minister would risk the credibility of the party. He said: "I have absolute confidence in [John Major]. I believe he will continue to be the leader until the next election and will lead us into the next election. I think that would be, I am sure that would be, the view of every single member of the Cabinet. He has our complete support."

However, Mr Portillo refused to rule himself out for the leadership if Mr Major were to stand down.

Some right-wingers were plotting to bring Mr Major down by sending a delegation to tell him he had lost the confidence of the party after the elections. Teresa Gorman, one of the nine whipless Tory MPs, said the group wanted the whip to be restored before the local elections. "We [whipless Tories] are going to get the blame if the elections go wrong."

Mr Portillo conceded the local election results would be "bad" for the Tories. Senior Conservative sources have told the Independent that the party is planning to regain the initiative after local election defeats, by using the annual party conference in October as a launch-pad for the election, as it did in 1986 with the "next step forward" agenda.

A leading Euro-sceptic in the Cabinet, Mr Portillo raised eyebrows among colleagues by saying the Tories would have to clarify their stance on the single European currency in the election manifesto.

Mr Clarke has been fighting to keep open the option of joining the single European currency and will resist any attempt to close it, or to opt for a referendum.

Conservative aides said the "new agenda" (see above) outlined by Mr Major was a "new phase not a new face" for the party. A truer description may have been a face-lift. The old face of the Tory party, which has begun to sag after 16 years in office, is being given a nip and tuck by the spin doctors. Tory aides said they wanted to get across the message that the party was "bubbling with ideas" and issued a list of 25 "policy developments" in the Prime Minister's speech."We are not reinventing our values," said a senior party source

It looks, however, as though they may be "reinventing" old policies. Setting aside some of the items, which are no more than "apple-pie" objectives to improve services to industry, small business, improving training and cut red tape, the Prime Minister's list boiled down to 16 policy pronouncements. Only one is new.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Negotiator - OTE £24,000

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic individual is r...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - West Midlands - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - Yorkshire & Humber - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Embedded Linux Engineer - C / C++

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A well funded smart home compan...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?