I have already argued, a little down the page, that cutting inheritance tax is unwise. It appears the Chancellor disagrees with me. Well I don't merely think that what he has done is bad policy- it is but that's a question for another thread- it is also bad politics. I've summarised the reasons why in this article at Bits of News, the key passages are these though...
The worst thing though about Mr Darling's new announcement though wasn't the bad policy- most governments have many bad policies. It is awful politics though. Mr Darling and his friend, the Prime Minister, Mr Brown are both on the backfoot. They have yielded the leadership of the debate to the conservative party. Mr Brown was humiliated at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, assaulted by his opposite number Mr Cameron. One Tory MP asked Mr Brown whether his imitation of Tory policy was flattery for the Conservative party or a belated attempt at salvation for his political soul. Quips flew across the chamber and the dour Scot in the centre looked unamused by the affair.
He doesn't have anyone to blame though but himself. After-all Mr Brown could have followed his predecessor Mr Blair's strategy. Mr Blair as soon as the Conservatives announced a policy, would describe it as the next thing to National Socialism. Every MP and minister would go around the country repeating the exact form of words in the same way and pressure groups would be invited to write reports substantiating the charge. Then once the Conservatives had been humiliated, bashed into submission, Mr Blair would walk off with their policy if he thought it was a good election winning (sorry sensible and prudential) policy. He perfected the art, and Mr Brown had to do nothing else but follow the template. But he didn't. The Prime Minister panicked- he decided to follow the winds and grab the policy before the Tories had lost the advantage of first proposing it, now he merely looks stupid.
These events undermine two of Mr Brown's key strengths on coming into office. He has a reputation for being a gloomy, boring calculator of a man. However he also has the reputation of being a serious thinker with good ideas about policy and being consistent and determined. He has the reputation of being an adult as opposed to Mr Cameron's adolescent. Well the events of the last week have seen the adolescent start proposing policies that the adult has taken up. Mr Brown's seriousness has taken a blow, if this is a good idea shouldn't he have come up with it by himself. Mr Brown has been shown up as inconsistent as well- attacking a policy minutes before adopting it.
Even if you support abolishing inheritance tax, now was not the time for Labour to do it. They should have denounced the Tories and then waited to grab the policy later. Just like Tony Blair always used to do- how many Labour supporters are wishing that the new man had just a hint of the nous that the old guy used to display in intellectual theft. At least when he did it he wasn't caught red handed, the day after the Tories had bought the policy!