I was watching Andrew Marr’s interview with David Cameron this morning.
Cameron was asked repeatedly whether he was going to raise VAT, and he kept saying it wasn’t what he wanted to do; however, if you listened closely, he didn’t rule it out.
It reminded me of an interview Marr did with Cameron just before the Lisbon Treaty was ratified: Cameron stuck to his line that he would call a referendum so long as it wasn’t ratified, but he refused to discuss what he’d do if that happened before he became PM.
As we know now, a lot of Tories felt upset and betrayed when Cameron swiftly dropped the idea of a referendum two weeks later.
Cameron said he had never promised a referendum under these circumstances, but lots of people had believed he’d call a referendum no matter what.
In other words, Cameron thought he was being really clever by talking only about what he’d do if things went his way, but when they didn’t, people felt betrayed.
I can’t help thinking the same story is repeating itself when it comes to VAT.
Cameron probably thinks it’s clever not to talk about a VAT increase that perhaps won’t be necessary, but he’s forgetting that the vast majority of people will have understood him as ruling out higher VAT, and they’ll feel majorly betrayed when Cameron has to increase the rate to 20% (as seems very likely).