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Osborne gambles on a windfall – something you can’t do on a zero hour contract

'Gideon' OsborneIn war, there’s only a short amount of time your weaponry has an edge over the enemy. Labour has spent the last couple of months shelling the Tory trenches with the party working tax credit shells. This week, the new ‘police funding’ gun has been pressed into service.

Both pasted the Tory position to the point it became strategically vulnerable and, in the Autumn statement, the chancellor pulled his forces back to a better fortified position.

The u-turn on tax credits and the u-turn on police cuts now means the Tories are out of range and its up to the boffins to come up with something new. Unfortunately, the dropping of John McDonnell’s Mao bomb missed its target by some distance and threw our follow up assault into disarray.

Enough of the tired battlefield allegory. Given the media’s mood music, you could be forgiven for thinking that an omnishambles-style catastrophe was in the offing. Unfortunately, it was the very opposite. Despite being forced to backpedal publicly on the cuts to tax credits, and the reverse on police, Osborne had a very good statement. It was cheeky because, like before, he wrapped himself up in the same Labour clothing the Tories had, pre-election, denounced as communist overalls.

Muscular because he blithely skipped from unfunded spending commitments to ruinous cuts, yet managed to project himself as if he was delivering a budget for a strong, growing economy; not the imbalanced and precarious mess it is presently. This was a confident chancellor, one who visibly enjoyed taking the stand and occasionally tickling the Commons’ ribs with comedic asides. Looking askance, that’s probably what people not normally interested in politics picked up on when they watched tonight’s new bulletins.

Of course, Osborne is fortunate. He’s lucky. Some might extend that luck to the character of the opponents facing him on the benches opposite. His programme, however, is premised on an “unexpected” windfall of projected tax receipts – as divined by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

If someone on zero hours contracts signs themselves up to spending commitments over the next year on the assumption they’ll get steady work, that’s something of a risk. To stake a programme of government on the same is taking a bit of a risk.

Yes, the economy is doing okay, but what Britain needs is economic policies that shore up the home market – not measures designed to pull money out of it. Around the corner is instability stoked by war in the Middle East, slowdown in China, stagnation in the Eurozone, and the ever-present costs of climate change. It won’t take much for the smug grin on Osborne’s face to get wiped off, but it’s not the likes of him who’ll pay the price for his fall.

3 Comments

  1. Bazza says:

    Yes and much of this is from the Tory VAT increase from 17-20% an indirect tax which is making us all pay!

  2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    “The u-turn on tax credits and the u-turn on police cuts now means the Tories are out of range and its up to the boffins to come up with something new ?”

    Seriously?

    Regardless of it’s complete lack of content; who, (once again,) on earth even talks like that?

    But a aside from that, the Tories have just played a complete blinder and left the British Labour party, now completely uncoupled from both it’s traditional socialist aims and principles, but also and equally so from its grassroots working class supporters, blowing in the wind.

  3. Verity says:

    For those whose income is greater than their outgoings then they can perhaps be forgive for confusing Thatcherite domestic budgets with national economics, but it would be mistaken for saying that, ‘..the economy is doing OK’. On the contrary the economy is very seriously not OK.

    The UK has a deep productivity problem with an almost complete absence of investment with stores of cash being withheld. The balance of trade is at one of its historic worst levels. Investment in research and development has under performed for well over a decade. The meaning of ‘Training’ has been substituted with on the job repetitive practices. Importing low paid labour to meet gaps not readily met in the domestic market is rampant. Our sense of wealth has been constructed upon a bubble in home ownership for which the debts are enormous.

    We do need to be careful not to fall for a Conservative or even a Byrne ‘new – old third way’ vision that not much needs to be done. Unfortunately so much needs to be done that the Left will have real problems trying to rectify problems whilst still maintaining the needed energy and political support. But we can at least start with an economic analysis rather than a domestic budget appreciation.

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