The Conservative Party has yet to release the mini-manifesto it promised a week ago.
Nine days ago the Tories’ spokesperson for the game industry – Ed Vaizey – confidently assured Develop that the documents would be released this week.
That promise has not been met, leaving the party with little time to convince the industry of its full, unequivocal support.
Yesterday a spokesperson for the party told Develop they didn’t know when the paper would appear – and added that no one would until a day before publication as “things get moved around”.
Vaizey’s promise of a mini-manifesto had, for the time, expunged accusations that his party is retreating plans to support the industry.
There was no mention of game sector support found anywhere in the Conservatives’ bulky 131-page manifesto.
Leading UK industry professionals told Develop that the nonappearance of game tax breaks in the paper was “very unsettling”.
Yet soon after accusations were fired, Vaizey contacted Develop to explain that the Conservatives will “publish details of our support for the videogame industry very shortly.”
He said: “I can assure you that all the details will be published next week, and that will include details for our support for video game tax breaks.”
Labour MP Tom Watson – an industry sympathiser who previously claimed to have identified conflict on the issue from within the Conservative Party – was concerned by the tax break absence in the Tory manifesto.
He told Develop: “I hope this doesn’t mean that Ed Vaizey, who’s a friend of mine, has lost an internal battle with [Shadow Chancellor] George Osborne on the issue.”
Watson added that that the Conservative manifesto discusses a range of tax policies, raising further doubts over why the game-specific policy failed to get mentioned.
The series of events had cast doubts over the Conservatives’ ambitions for supporting the industry – despite Vaizey’s repeated, if not at times slippery, promises.
In October last year, at the London Games Conference, Vaizey deftly slipped any concrete vow to introduce the kind of tax breaks that the industry has demanded for a number of years.
At the time he said: “I know most of you have been focused on an industry-specific tax break, but I encourage the sector to think more widely than that.”
And yet, at the recent ELSPA Question Time event, Vaizey pledged unequivocally that the Conservatives will introduce “fiscal support” for the sector.
But MP Tom Watson claimed to have identified conflict on the issue from within the Conservative Party.
He said, “Vaizey’s a great man, but basically he doesn’t make the calls. George Osborne does. And [Osbourne] hasn’t made his mind up on the issue.”
Last week, when promising to release a mini-manifesto, Vaizey once again appeared to circumvent any substantive promise to provide tax break support.
“There’s a whole range of other measures that we think we should look at that could provide support for the videogame industry,” he said.
“There are some people in the game industry that think a tax break might be too narrow, or inappropriate.
“We also need to look at venture capital trusts and research and development tax breaks to see if they can be tweaked to ensure that video game developers can access that kind of support as well.”