How do you keep a secret? Or why Chris Leslie shouldn’t become an undercover detective

Imagine you have something you want to keep secret. You’re going to do something, and you don’t want anyone to know.

Chances are, you’ll take a look around and make sure there aren’t any  TV cameras pointed at you and rolling away live coverage to several channels. Perhaps the memory of politicians running into problems with comments caught on microphones come to mind, and you’ll take a good look around to ensure there aren’t any in the same room as you that might be used by a national radio station or two.

Then you’ll remember to check you’re alone. Don’t want to do your stealthy act in a room full of others, friends, enemies or passing tourists.

But imagine instead you go into a room filled with several hundred people, with a phalanx of journalists looking on and your every word being broadcast live on several TV and radio stations. What you are going to say is hardly “stealthy”, is it?

And yet, despite George Osborne getting up in Parliament and clearly announcing the plans to freeze income tax allowances for pensioners – words direct from his mouth to hundreds of MPs, the cream of the Westminster political reporting crop and millions of TV and radio listeners – Labour MP Chris Leslie has attacked him for making a “stealthy” change to income tax allowances “buried away on page 50 of the Budget”.

No Chris, it wasn’t buried away. It was said out loud, just a few feet away from you and hundreds of other MPs and broadcast live on national TV and radio. It was about as stealthy as the signposted secret bunker.

If you think that’s stealth, then please – never join the design team for a stealth fighter or become an undercover detective.

In the meantime, this sort of abuse of the word “stealthy” means it is one to file along side “ideological” and “send a signal” in the best never used pile.


Note: For a good post on the income tax allowances issue, see Mark Valladares – Budget 2012: Some Initial Thoughts.

3 responses to “How do you keep a secret? Or why Chris Leslie shouldn’t become an undercover detective”

  1. What Osborne said was rather different from the money saved from the "granny tax". Also odd that this and the pie tax were not amongst the trailed items befrore the budget.

    Osborne in Hansard:

    " We should also simplify the age-related allowances, which the Office of Tax Simplification recently highlighted as a particularly complicated feature of the tax system. The National Audit Office points out that many pensioners do not understand them. These allowances require around 150,000 pensioners to fill in self-assessment forms, and as we have real increases in the personal allowances, their value is already being eroded.

    So over time we will simplify the tax system for pensioners by doing away with the complexity of the additional age-related allowances for anyone reaching the age of 65 on or after 6 April 2013, and I will freeze the cash value of the allowance for existing pensioners until it aligns with the personal allowance. This will protect the existing level of allowance pensioners have while introducing a new single personal allowance for all. It is a major simplification, it saves money, and no pensioner will lose in cash terms."

    • Even in your quote, Osborne says what is being done – "I will freeze the cash value of the allowance for existing pensioners until it aligns with the personal allowance". That is an explicit and accurate description, which makes it about as unstealthy as you can get!

    • May be "less than straightforward" is a better description then when reference to simplification is used as an explanation for real terms increase in taxation.

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