The Labour Manifesto – the Deniability Quotient


I’d never bothered to read a political manifesto before today. But I suspected that some fun could be had with them. If you know that someone has a tendency to be economical with the truth then a lot of amusement can be had from figuring out how they have phrased their words to maximize the Deniability Quotient (DQ) in anticipation of accusations of lying.

The DQ of the Labour Manifesto is pretty high.

Take this example from Page 11 of the manifesto:

“We will not raise the basic, higher and new top rates of tax in the next parliament and we renew our pledge not to extend VAT [sales] to food, children’s clothes, books, newspapers and public transport fares.”

Superficially it sounds great, doesn’t it? The casual reader interprets this as “taxes won’t go up.” If you believe that Labour are to be trusted then you might be right in that interpretation. Ok it doesn’t exactly say that but we can trust them, no?

How many advisers, lawyers and spin doctors had an input into that sentence?

A more realistic assumption is that they cannot be trusted, they are political animals after all, and that sentence must be read through the eyes of a lawyer. There is enough room for weaseling around that a proper reading of this would be the exact opposite.

What the sentence means is that

– the percentages of income tax won’t change (i.e. the 20%, 40%, 50%)

– the threshold at which they each come into effect will change, i.e. decrease

– Capital Gains Tax will increase

– Other taxes will also go up

– The rate of VAT will increase

Notice how the sentence does not specifically refer to “income” tax. By missing out the word “income” the effect is to suggest that all taxes are being referred to. But that can’t be the case because it’s only income tax that has “basic, higher and new top rates” of tax. All taxes besides income tax and VAT are excluded from this sentence. This gives Labour the required deniability.

I am looking forward to the Conservative manifesto!