Almost as every week passes the Government appears no longer in charge of its own destiny, stumbling from one disaster to another, hoping against hope to borrow the immortal words of Mr Micawber that something will turn up to save it from defeat at the next General Election.
Public fury over changes to Vehicle Excise Duty has a familiar ring to it, stemming as it does from an over-hyped Budget announcement about green measures to reward people choosing to drive environmentally friendly vehicles.
The Government deliberately allowed the impression to be given that most of us would be better off from the new taxation regime, even if the Prime Minister is relying on the caveat that “the majority will benefit or pay no more”, but is now severely embarrassed by confirmation that 43 per cent of road users will see their bills rise by up to £245 while fewer than 20 per cent will actually be better off.
To make matters even worse, putting paid to claims that the VED changes were designed to influence motorists’ future behaviour, the new scale of charges is to be applied retrospectively – clobbering people who bought their cars up to seven years ago. There might, possibly, be an argument in favour as far as old 4x4 gas-guzzlers are concerned, but who in their right mind thinks it is a good idea to impose a polluter tax on the tens of thousands of people relying on Vauxhall Vectras or Ford Mondeos for their family car?
Incredibly, the Government has managed to unite a disparate front of political parties and single-interest campaign groups in opposition to the VED shake-up. The Conservatives are against, of course, Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker suggested the Government must have a death wish, the AA railed against a “mean tax that will hit millions of hard-up families”, while even Friends of the Earth gently suggested it would be better to persuade motorists to change their lifestyle by providing financial incentives rather than imposing further taxation.
Many words could used to describe the changes, but it would be wrong to suggest what is being proposed is a stealth tax. Millions of motorists will be left in no doubt that they are being forced to dig deep into their pockets when they next come to tax their car.
And to think that only 12 years ago Labour was busily wooing Mondeo Man.