Press summary: Tuesday 22 March
An ICM poll for the Guardian (p1) suggests that taxation and public services (11%) is the fourth most important issue for voters after health (27%), education (18%) and law and order (14%). The poll found that Labour enjoys a 10 point lead over the Tories on tax and public services, with 35% thinking the government is putting forward the best policies, to 25% for the Conservatives and 13% for the LibDems. Gordon Brown's budget has made 20% of voters more likely to vote Labour in the election, 14% are less likely to vote for the Government and for 61% it will make no difference. According to the Guardian, the poll confirms that economic competence "remains the Tories' achilles heel, and when the detailed results are correlated against voting intention, appears to be the most important factor in shaping people's voting patterns."
Stephen Pollard (The Times, p18) rightly lampoons the Conservative's support for an EU fuel duty that would increase the cost of flights by GBP3.50-7. Shadow Transport Secretary Tim Yeo said yesterday: "If I was in office on May 6 I would want to straight away talk to my colleagues in Europe about how we could make progress towards a fuel tax." Pollard concludes: "If Mr Yeo's neo-Heathite approach to business success is what lies in store under the Conservatives, roll on that third defeat."
Prof Peter Spencer, of York University, told the Commons Treasury committee yesterday that Gordon Brown is unlikely to meet his "golden rule" in the current economic cycle and, looking forward to the next cycle, due in 2006-07, the margin for error is simply too tight. Martin Weale, of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said that it was generally agreed that tax rises were on the cards. Predictions of GBP10-15bn were "probably" correct (Daily Telegraph, p2) .
The Daily Mail (p2) reports figures in the Budget Red Book that suggest Britain will overtake Germany as the biggest contributor to the EU budget following a GBP1.7bn jump in contributions, taking the total to GBP4.3bn. Germany, in comparison paid GBP4.1bn to Brussels last year and the figure is expected to be the same this year. The Leader (p12) concludes: "How can this Government continue to pretend that close European integration is in our national interest?"
A major study published by the Royal Economic Society suggests that children do "sizably and statistically significantly worse in both maths and English" when they use computers several times a week in school. The Government has earmarked GBP2.5bn for school computers and pledged a further GBP1.5bn in the future (Daily Mail, p37).
A new report suggests that the identity card scheme may cost more than double the current GBP3.1bn estimate (The Times, p2).
The Daily Telegraph (p23) has an obituary for John DeLorean a "Dody car manufacturer who relieved successive British governments of GBP78million of taxpayers' money".