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.

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
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

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

C#.NET Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, WPF, WCF, ASP.NET, Prism...

Creche Assistant or Nursery Nurse

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Creche Assistant to start asap ...

Day In a Page

Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband