Darling: I wanted to raise VAT

By politics.co.uk staff

Former chancellor Alistair Darling has admitted he was barred from raising VAT by Gordon Brown.

The clash between Labour’s last prime minister and Mr Darling, who eventually held VAT at 17.5% in his pre-election Budget, was revealed in former business secretary Peter Mandelson’s memoirs, The Third Man.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show this morning, Mr Darling acknowledged he would have preferred to implement the measure eventually introduced by his successor in No 100, George Osborne, in the post-election emergency Budget.

“It’s no secret, I said at the time, and since Peter has actually spelt out in gory detail I’m not going to deny what was patently true,” he said.

Mr Darling told journalists before the emergency Budget that VAT and income tax were the “big moneyspinners” for the Treasury.

“They’re the ones that make a difference for income streams coming into the government,” he explained.

His comments undermine Labour’s attempts to gain political capital from the coalition’s hike in VAT, which opposition politicians have repeatedly claimed is a regressive move.

“The advantage of VAT is that it brings a lot of money, it would have allowed you to do a lot to take down the deficit but also given you money to spend on things that actually matter,” Mr Darling added today.

“It would have ameliorated some of the worst effects of reductions.”