To lose one tax policy may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two or three looks like carelessness.
Now chancellor George Osborne has made four tax U-turns in a single week. What does that look like? Sheer panic, perhaps?
First the infamous pasty tax was dumped with much fanfare. Osborne had planned to charge 20 percent VAT on hot baked goods.
But now he has redefined “hot” to mean “heated”, ensuring that hot pasties sold on cold shelves remain untaxed. Shares in Greggs bakers shops jumped 8 percent on the news.
Osborne also declared he had dropped plans to charge VAT on static caravans.
Mercifully this did not seem to involve any cunning redefinitions of the word “static”.
Then on Friday of last week another budget bulletin bit the dust. A proposed cap on tax relief for rich people who give to charity was dropped.
This will allegedly restore an “incentive” for the wealthy to hand over some of their money to the “good causes” they choose to patronise.
In other words, they get an opt-out from paying into the public purse like the rest of us have to.
And over the weekend there was yet another U-turn on a “skip tax”.
This would have seen skip firms charged more to dump rubbish, but the government rapidly backpedalled.
Labour has come out with more predictable stuff about the Tories’ “omnishambles”.
But Osborne’s pasties are now getting toasted on both sides. The Tory right has started muttering about how he’s a “part time chancellor”.
They think he spends too much time hobnobbing with his chum David Cameron and cutting backroom deals with the Liberal Democrats.
Government spin doctors had hoped the timing of the “good news” U-turn announcements would deflect attention from the Leveson inquiry and Andy Coulson’s arrest.
But instead Osborne has come out looking wobblier and weaker—with knives being sharpened to his left and his right.
Maybe he’ll need that static caravan to escape to after all.