Monday, 21 June 2010

Darling warns Osborne: 'I know where the bodies are buried'

Alistair Darling gave a pre-Budget briefing this afternoon. A bit of a climb-down for the former Chancellor, and not hugely detailed.

In his defence, he noted how he no longer has the full Treasury machine to do his number crunching, just one (rather young looking) assistant by his side.

But he made clear that When George Osborne rises at 12.30pm tomorrow, the former Labour Chancellor knows the tricks of the Treasury.

“I am well aware of what is lying around in there,” he said pointedly.

Asked what sort of things the civil servants might be proposing, he added: “As you can imagine in the Treasury there are a whole host of ideas, some are fit for human consumption, some are not.”

Even so, he would be “astonished” if VAT did not rise to 20 per cent tomorrow.

I confess I am not so sure. Both Cameron and Osborne went further than they needed to in recent weeks to suggest it was not on the cards – almost with a wink - and within a whisker of ruling it out completely.

I wonder if the government has been happy for the VAT thread to continue in recent weeks, only to announce tomorrow that it won’t rise after all.

But then, I don’t know where the bodies are buried.

UPDATE: A lot of eyes will be on what happens to Capital Gains Tax. Westcountry Lib Dems are keen to see the election pledge rise implemented, targetting amongst others second home owners. But Tories are not happy. As Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox has just tweeted: "Hoping George will spare the prudent who have buried a bone for a rainy day. "

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