It is telling that Labour leader Ed Miliband’s hollow argument against VAT rising to 20% from midnight tonight extends only to families being hit and an alternative-free assurance that he wouldn’t make the same decision in David Cameron’s position. Yes there is a need for the entirety of the coalition’s policies being tested for the existence of progressive merits but, in isolation, there is little to argue against a VAT-rise.

Ed calls it “the wrong tax at the wrong time”. He of course has to take an opposition stance at these times but nonetheless this soundbite seems a little too strong. What is the “right” tax and, given our record deficit, when is the “right” time? With Corporation tax decreasing and income tax rates staying resolutely in place due to our Governments past and present being too timid and too ideologically stuck to alter them, it was always going to be VAT that had to move.

Noone enjoys paying tax but a misdirection created by something rising is the suggestion that the previous level, the status quo if you will, is more likely to be correct because it is what people are used to. However, a VAT rate of 20% brings the UK more in line with rates in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany and Italy and still a good 3-5% below Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Denmark. Maybe we’ve had too good sales rates for too long a time and, to coin a few phrases, ‘we could not go on like this’, ‘we’re all in this together’ and ‘are you thinking what Merkel/Sarkozy/Berlusconi’s thinking’.

It is quite clear that had Labour won a fourth term, with or without coalition assistance from the Lib Dems, that VAT would have increased at some point during this parliamentary term. There are simply too few other palatable measures that Gordon Brown and/or Ed Miliband had at their disposal to plug the deficit. This likelihood is further compounded by the lack of explanation in the Labour manifesto as to how the party aimed to fulfil its promise of halving the(ir) deficit.

I don’t like the sight of students having to triple the amount of fees they pay each year, I don’t like the sight of charities having to close down at a worrying rate and I don’t like corporation tax decreasing when super-profits still exist for numerous British companies out there, but the nececssity of an increase in VAT when your finances are in such a parlous state, without cutting jobs, is difficult to avoid.

(And yes, this all puts the Liberal Democrats in yet another tight spot but there is a difference between overpromising/underdelivering and bringing in a policy that is actually quite reckless. Thankfully it is only the former, this time)