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How will Tory whips respond to Ed Balls’ audacious petrol vote?

9 November 2012

Ed Balls has secured a debate for next week calling for the government to postpone for a second time the 3p rise in fuel duty that is due this January. It’s a pretty shameless move by the Shadow Chancellor, given these rises are ones that Labour instituted in 2009 and 2010. But he clearly believes that it is worth a little bit of political positioning similar to his chutzpah on the EU budget.

In an article for PoliticsHome, Balls tries to address the rather awkward point about his own party’s policy on fuel duty rises, writing:

‘Of course difficult decisions are needed to get the deficit down. That’s why Labour put up fuel duty in the past. But we often delayed or cancelled planned duty rises based on the circumstances at the time – including at the height of the global financial crisis. And I am clear that now is not the right time to hit the economy with another tax rise on small firms and people on low and middle incomes.’

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Balls is also trying to steal the thunder of a backbench Tory campaign against the fuel duty increase, which might make the vote interesting. I understand Robert Halfon, who has long campaigned for cheaper petrol, will vote with Labour, even if it pains him to do so. Other colleagues who have supported the campaign may also do so, but it will be interesting to see how many join the vote: there was great discomfort within the party about collusion with Labour on the EU budget rebellion.

It is also a challenge for the whips. A previous motion tabled by Halfon himself off the back of an e-petition in November 2011 gained the support of 116 MPs from across the house, and the whips were relaxed about Conservatives supporting it. Funnily enough, the vote last autumn came hot on the heels of the embarrassing rebellion of 81 Tory MPs on the motion calling for an EU referendum, and a three-line whip was watered down to allow MPs to vote as they pleased to avoid another revolt. As this vote comes a week and a half after this year’s EU revolt on the multi-annual budget, the whips may be tempted to do the same, even if it is a Labour motion.

P.S. It’s worth noting that Halfon has tabled an early day motion on this very subject, calling for the proceeds of the 4G auction to cover the cost of scrapping the fuel duty hike.

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Show comments
  • William Blakes Ghost

    it would seem to me sensible for Osborne to trump it by not only scrapping the increase in the rate of fuel duty but also by cutting it by 1p (at least) and reducing the £13 billion hike in public spending he has written into his budget projections for 2013. It has always puzzled me why he has had such a disproportionate hike in spending scheduled for next year (other than some sort of election bribe that is)? Rather than wasting more on the public sector perhaps he should scrap the hike and offer targetted tax cuts instead like fuel duty aimed at stimulating the private sector without incurring more debt? You never know, a cut in fuel duty might even help stimulate demand for fuel that actually increases the tax take.

  • Coffeehousewall

    They should support Ed Ball’s on this. Or rather they should support the lowering of taxes which are a burden only on those who are paying to keep the country going and who tend to vote a conservative Government but always end up with a socialist one.

    Real conservatives, which the Tory party manifestly is not, will always support lower taxes and will ask what we should NOT be doing as a state. All politicians at present are unable to comprehend a world in which the state does not continue to gain power and influence over every area of life, and where the state does not continue to assume that all income belongs to it.

  • David Lindsay

    How about, as part of the comprehensive reorganisation of the tax and benefits system that the Labour Party will have to devise between now and the next General Election, a headline-grabbing, fully costed commitment to reduce petrol duty dramatically, and either to do the same to road tax or else, quite conceivably, to abolish it altogether?

    Jeremy Clarkson, of what is now Labour Ward of Chipping Norton, what would you say to that? You would be saying something quite different a couple of years later, when the implications had sunk in, for only in Britain do motorists imagine that somehow they own the roads because of “we pay for them” through road tax and petrol duty, which are not particularly large contributions to the colossal central and local government cost of the road network. But by then, it would be too late.

    Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, over to you.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Pull the rug out from under the bounder and just cut the fuel duty right back, then tax champagne socialists to make up the difference, starting with Polly Toynbee. Levy a windfall tax on her assets, say 95% and 90% on every fee she gets for writing an article. Do this with every other gobby lefty in the media, luvvy world, fake charities scam, quangocracy and academia who is worth over £150k in income and £500k in assets.

    That would be nasty. But show them what it really means to be nasty.

  • dorothy wilson

    Shouldn’t that headline be “…. Balls’ cynical petrol vote”?

  • 2trueblue

    Oh the sheer balls of it. But then we know that he is truely incompetent from his 13yrs as part of a government that presided over the most corrupt parliament, We all know that Balls was one of the architects of the mess we are enduring which left us with this fuel escalator in place. Everything grew in their time, child poverty, gap between rich and poor, youth unemployment, fuel prices, EU contributions, national and personal debt, to name a few. What did not grow were standards in any area, infrastructure to cope with a massive hike in population, housing, and increasing peoples personal aspirations.

  • Chris lancashire

    Balls is the most unprincipiled politician around. No passing bandwagon too small on which to jump. No 180* turn in policy too difficult.
    Milliband deserves him.

    • Adrian Drummond

      Well said. For all Ball’s quantitative intelligence (apparently he is very smart indeed), he certainly appears to lack social and interpersonal intelligence. Poor man.

  • Noa

    A competent Conservative Chancellor and Cabinet would never have seen this gambit and pre-empted it.
    As it is Osborne should revoke this miserable socialist tax escalator, falling as it does, most harshly on on the productive sector of our society.

    • Noa

      delete ‘never’

      • Heartless etc.,

        Indeed. And should the Chancellor ever start to revoke, he could revoke many other ‘miserable socialist tax’ scams and EUSSR ‘initiatives’ that cost us so much.

        • HooksLaw

          Casually dropping the usual ‘better of out’ propaganda? If OUT we would still have to abide by EU single market rules and pay (using Norway as a guide) 4 billion a year into cohesion funds.

          There is no such thing as totally ‘OUT’ – the EU will not go away and we have to deal with it.

          • Daveyyy12

            You getting paid by the EU like Jacks Straws lad.

            The Tories should have stopped this nasty tax escalator.

            Stop foreign aid, Guardian doing an article about India not shedding any tears when it stops in 2 years. Then why wait 2 years?
            legal aid only for defence in criminal prosecutions. No legal aid for any offence not committed on these shores. Only get legal aid for appeals on grounds of innocence.

            Everything else, terrorist extradition, Human rights, EU court your pay for yourself.

  • In2minds

    Balls grips himself by the throat?

    • telemachus

      This charismatic superstar has a nose for the way under Cameron’s skin.
      Amazing the jealousy from the revanchists.

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