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George Osborne’s core vote budget

Osborne's gladstone budgetboxI don’t know where this idea originates from but apparently, at least in Conservative Party circles, George Osborne is considered something of a political genius. Then again, among his people, Michael Gove is thought of as an “intellectual”. So we’re talking a very low bar here. Yet wanting to see the best in everyone, I’ve patiently tracked Osborne’s performance over six budgets, five autumn statements in the middle of winter, and seen too many interviews with Gormless Gidders. Each time I look for that spark. I’ve even borrowed the Large Hadron Collider to scrutinise Osborne for particle-sized flashes of brilliance. Nothing has shown on the scanners. How big does an atom smasher have to be or, in this case, how long should scrutiny carry on before you affirm the null hypothesis?

See yesterday’s budget as a case in point. Stung by claims that another Tory-led government would take public spending back to the 1930s as percentage of GDP expended, Osborne furiously backpedaled and is proud to say his target now matches the figures from 2000. However, in easing the austerity pain he neglected to wax so lyrical about this:

The Tory and Liberal Democrat cuts plan (remember, they’ve signed off on this too) invites reductions bigger than anything we’ve so far seen in this Parliament. Then, inexplicably, spending shoots up above 2009-10 levels in the final year of the next term. It’s almost as if there’s an election at the end of that spending round.

Then there is this so helpfully provided by The Speccie:

They’re moaning about this because while education and NHS budgets are “protected” under Osborne’s plans, military spending is set to be cut. I’m more bothered by the devastation to be wreaked on the public sector – particularly local government-provided services – and the butchering of social security for the poorest and most vulnerable. The figures might not say 1930s, but living standards on the ground certainly will.

Not to worry though. Tax credits, disability, unemployment, housing benefit, council tax support, etc. are all due to be raided so corporation tax for Britain’s largest and richest businesses can come down further, but at least those feckless scroungers and those happy to put up with low pay and zero hour contracts can look forward to a penny off the pint, and tuppence from cider. Nothing says contempt quite like a Tory booze duty cut.

As for the rest, raising the basic tax threshold benefits the better off disproportionately more than the poor, subsidising wannabe house buyers saving for a deposit is bound to see more cash flow to those who don’t really need it, and stealing Labour’s bankers’ tax levy to show they’re getting really tough on City abuses. The rest is hardly stop the presses stuff. The annual limit on “normal” ISAs will be raised by a few hundred quid, Manchester gets to keep its business rates, church roof repair funds get a £15m bung, and that really is about it.

The Tories think this is a clever budget. The delivery was slick, even if it was taken apart by an increasingly assertive Ed Miliband afterwards. And, at first glance, it doesn’t read like a red in tooth and claw manifesto for class war. Already it’s being spun as a budget for everyone. It’s anything but. Few apart from the already convinced will be persuaded of the merits of Osborne’s case, and the huge and totally unnecessary cuts to come (plus the small matter of vote Tory, get UKIP) is pretty much enough to ward everyone else off. This was a core vote budget, and that isn’t a sign of genius: more a signal of defeat and an  acknowledgement of impending doom.

2 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    Throwing stones in the proverbial green house again, maybe Osborne and Cameron are seen as being good solid politicians because they are up against two light weights in Miliband and Ball’s .

    Reeves statement says it all surely. Labour is the party of working people, we are not the party of welfare or benefits, which should worry all those people on tax credits and child credits which is classed as welfare, all people on pensions because pension are seen as welfare, people like me who are deemed to be to disabled to work, because labour is not the party of welfare.

    And then the soldier who are sick disabled they get welfare.

    Tell me what the hell is the difference, you want us to vote labour, why should I. The rail tracks are heading in the same direction to cuts and maybe more deaths due to labour new hate of Welfare, or should that be Progress.

    1. John.P reid says:

      Can’t disagree with what you say, but if Newman and co, had got their way and expelled progress, do you think that Labours current policies,would be different without the magazine?

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