As Budgets go, this one has gone, and that’s about the best that can be said of it
As Budgets go, this one has gone, and that’s about the best that can be said of it. The Chancellor had already announced in advance that New Labour had spent all the money and that there was nothing left in the Treasury, so we cannot complain we weren’t warned. In fact, Liam Byrne left a note to that effect on his desk for his successor.
The hope that therefore this Chancellor would instead lay on a dazzling pyrotechnic display of creative finance to get the economy moving again was similarly empty. Nothing was offered to stimulate growth, nothing to deal with the mounting structural unemployment, particularly among the youth, and nothing to lift the gloom, as the deficit rolls on at £120 billion for the current year, but with the bulk of the announced cuts still due to start coming in over the next year.
Instead, the Chancellor engaged in a bit of legerdemain in the dark, mugging a few old grannies and, like a reverse Robin Hood, handing the money to those earning over £150,000 a year, like the ones in the banks who got us all into this mess in the first place.
This may appeal to his right-wing camp-followers, whose grannies are well-wedged up in the ancestral dower house, but weekend polls show that Labour, led by that frothing and spluttering squashed turnip known as Ed Minibrand, is ahead in the polls by 1%: Minibrand 1, Os-not-born-out by the polls, 0, is the half-time score, while it’s the economy left sucking on the lemons.
It got slightly worse: Osborne did identify a sector for special treatment, but it was about to do better anyway: he threw £50 billion of reduced taxes at North Sea oil and gas exploration, only for three finance directors to say their plans would have gone ahead anyway, but thanks a lot for the extra tax cash which we will add to our hoards in the wretched banks.
Armed with such tiny morsels, the OBR – the Order of the Bad Rhubarb – announced that the Budget would add a staggering 0.1% to GDP, whatever that is! Real inflation, as you all know, is running at over 5%, and about to get worse for those who rely on cars, which is the other 99% of this lopsided non-equation. Apparently, Ossie has had the smug smile wiped from his piggy chops and is busy sheltering in No. 11, battling off the grey brick-bats.
Minibrand has at last got, or rather been handed, some traction, but his scaling ladder hasn’t got any of its own rungs left, so don’t hold your breath. If I were him, I’d leave it to the grannies to get on with it. Remember that granny up-north, the one whom Gordon Brown described as “that stupid old bigot”, who was the one who helped get rid of him?
If you really want a reminder of the utter incompetence of Labour – Old and New they are just the “same old salami” – just follow Ken Livingstone’s uncosted promises, or bribes, in the London mayoral elections. But then he was trained in the now-discredited Gordon Brown School of Misapplied Economics, where the only entry qualification was an unerring ability to get your sums wrong, every time.