Howard must pledge direct tax cuts, say senior Tories

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Indy Politics
Michael Howard is facing a backlash from senior Tories disappointed that he has not used the party's £4bn fund for tax cuts to promise reductions that voters would see in their pay packets.</p>In a straw poll by The Independent, several Tory candidates expressed fears that Mr Howard's plan to spend £1.7bn on boosting tax relief on pensions would not be as popular as a direct cut in income tax.</p>Several echoed the views of Howard Flight, the deputy chairman sacked for calling for deeper spending cuts than the £35bn the party has identified. They said bigger tax reductions should be announced later in the next parliament even if they were not included in a post-election Budget.</p>Some candidates made a last-minute plea for Mr Howard to spend the remaining £1 bn in his fund for a headline-grabbing move on income tax.</p>Laurence Robertson, Tory candidate in Tewkesbury, said it was important the tax burden did not rise under the Tories, as forecast by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. He said that, once in power, the party should find "far more savings" on top of those identified.</p>Robert Walter, a member of the the last parliament's Treasury Select Committee, said: "I hope that some way down the track, we can start to look at income tax thresholds, possibly later in the parliament."</p>Some were more forceful when they spoke on condition of anonymity. One senior Tory said: "We should keep it as simple as possible and go for direct cuts in taxation - something dramatic and obvious."</p>Tory fears were highlighted by David Mellor, the former cabinet minister, who said in the London Evening Standard: "Under Mrs Thatcher, the Tories had a philosophy ... that they and they alone were the party of tax cuts. [The public] knew what to expect from the Conservatives, and they wanted it." He said Mr Howard was "toast" unless he revealed his true "tax-cutting, expenditure-shredding instincts." </p>