The Great Conjurer takes another issue away from the Tories
When Tony Blair finally does step down as leader the one thing his party will surely miss is his extraordinary ability to foresee and to deal with issues that leave them vulnerable to Tory attacks.
Right from the Clause 4 abolition in the mid-90s to agreeing last year to the EU constitutional referendum one sensitive issue after another has been closed down by smart changes in Labour policy.
Tony Blair has been amazingly perceptive and far-seeing about what could hurt him and Labour amongst the key groups of voters who moved from the Tories in 1997 and have not gone back.
Today’s announcement about the postponement of the 2007 council tax revaluation in England is a classic Blair move. With the huge increase in property prices it was expected that many of the 22 million homes involved would have been put into higher bands and this tax, which has always been difficult to defend, could have developed into a serious problem.
A council tax revaluation was allowed to take place in Wales last year resulting in nearly a third of all homes going up at least one band – but the Principality remains almost a Tory-free zone so it did not really matter.
From an administrative point of view the delay is a complete nightmare. For many more years the rate at which the tax is paid will be determined by the estimated value of what a property would have cost in 1991. So even with the millions of new houses that have been built since then officials have to go through the process of estimating a notional 1991 price.
But hey – who cares about the problems? The revaluation would have come into effect in the run-up to the next General Election and the last thing Labour wants is an issue that could be avoided
Whoever becomes Tory leader, and the markets have been moving further to David Davis, will have to deal with the consequences of the “Great Conjurer”. The 1/2 that you can get on Labour winning again next time starts to look pretty tempting, even this far out.