The perils of talking freely in politics re: the IFS and the 50p tax rate

I was a bit surprised when I heard that the director of the IFS, Paul Johnson, had come out and said that the 50p tax rate wasn’t raising any money and that he ‘wouldn’t have bothered introducing it in the first place’ today.

It was only a week ago he was insisting to the FT that while the 50p tax rate was a ‘risk’, it was certainly not  ‘a stupid punt’.

Technically there is no inherent conflict between what he says except the emphasis given to it by the respective articles. As you’d expect, the Daily Telegraph, which reports his most recent comments, emphasises the negative aspects, which reflects their own (and their readers’) opposition to the 50p tax rate. The FT, on the other hand, adopts a more cautious, neutral tone fitting their own position as an expert financial news resource. Therefore at the end of an article about economists opposing the 50p tax rate they balance it out with a quote from the head of the IFS saying that while there is a risk, it’s not the stupid punt it’s being depicted as in some circles.

What’s funny is the report everyone seems to be referring to doesn’t seems to say with any confidence what effect the 50p rate has, that’s the point – as yet no one knows for sure.

I guess what this shows is how careful you have to be when you speak in public on political matters. It also shows how easy it is (and therefore why it happens so often!) when the IFS or some other body will produce a report and both main parties claim it backs up their own arguments when often it damns them both equally.

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