The Tories, death and taxes

10 February 2010


The Tories' latest campaign attack poster has ruffled a few Labour feathers.

The advert, which centres on a claim that Labour will introduce a £20,000 inheritance tax rate to pay for plans for elderly care, has been criticised by ministers as misleading.

The attack stems from a story in yesterday's Guardian, which floated the £20,000 figure and suggested Health Secretary Andy Burnham was considering the tax as a means to fund what would become the National Care Service.

Yesterday Mr Burnham denied this was what the government were planning, claiming he did "not believe that would be the right way" to fund the policy.

Nevertheless the Conservatives have taken the figure and run with it. In addition to the poster campaign, David Cameron grilled Gordon Brown on the plans in the Commons this afternoon.  Mr Brown refused to rule out the plan.

This afternoon Labour hit back, with the Health Secretary accusing the Tories of "scaremongering" over the policy.  The inheritance tax option was one of a range of measures in the green paper, but no final decision had been taken as to how to proceed.

"To put up a poster in advance of the culmination of those discussions … it's gutter politics," Mr Burnham said.

Gutter politics, or just the kind of political fact bending that is all part of the electoral rough and tumble?

It would be easier to have sympathy for Labour had they not issued their own dubious attack figures. At the beginning of the year, Alistair Darling published a briefing claiming there was an £34bn gap in Tory spending plans.

However analysis of the dossier found Labour ascribing policies to the Conservatives, which were not official party policy. For instance, Iain Duncan Smith's proposals for recognising marriage in the tax system have never been formally taken onboard.

Naturally, when planning campaign messages parties will select the facts which make their case in the strongest way. Yet it seems both parties have been using attack lines that are at best distant relatives of the full story.

In the run up to the election, voters deserve as much accurate information about what each potential government would do in power, and Full Fact will be working to give people the information behind the poster slogans.

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