Friday, 21 March 2014

Is this the most condescending budget ever?

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Budget Day is rarely an exciting day for anyone outside of the Westminster bubble, but this budget surely was as bizarre as it was boring; despite having very little content, it was still a shambles for the government and for the Ed Miliband, who had been refused an embargoed copy of the full budget. This was dirty politics from a desperate Chancellor.

I’m sure that many hard-working families in Britain struggling with the cost of living crisis, choosing between heating and eating, will be absolutely delighted to know that the tax on bingo has been halved to 10%. What better way to get the economy moving than cutting tax on bingo? This is certainly the jewel in the crown of the long term economic plan (which is starting to feel very much long term).

Though I’m probably a cynic, I’m not without alternative solutions. Rather than this perverse bingo tax cut, the money should’ve been ploughed into business rate cuts for small businesses.
The budget was also tightly targeted at UKIP supporters. Nigel Farage will be ecstatic to hear that the pint which he is usually photographed holding will be 1p cheaper (a whole penny!) though he might be disappointed to learn that the cigarette which he usually holds in the other hand will be 2% more expensive, and continue to rise.

The government’s plan to waive inheritance tax for emergency service people who die on the job seemed fair enough. However, as someone pointed out to me on twitter, most police and fire officers would probably prefer to have their pensions restored and the closure of police and fire stations to be reversed. When you take into account that vast majority of emergency service workers probably don’t have enough savings to even be eligible for inheritance tax – even if they’re not married – it becomes clear that it’s merely posturing.

Of course, following the budget speech by George Osborne, it was quickly noticed by commentators how Ed Miliband didn’t actually respond to any of the points raised in the budget. Whilst the ‘cost of living’ message is important, it’s hardly a full economic policy. Labour have to talk about the cost of living in the context of real peoples’ lives if it is to connect with voters.

Soon after it transpired that the opposition hadn’t even been given a copy of the speech by the Treasury, as is the political courtesy – George Osborne always received copies of the budget before budget day when he was in opposition.

As if the government didn’t already look shrewd, Grant Shapps tweeted: “Budget 2014 cuts bingo & beer tax helping hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy.” This was patronising, condescending and ridiculous to those of us who aren’t keen on drunk bingo.

It wasn’t surprising that many people thought the advert that soon followed was a spoof. Even the co-creator of The Thick Of It, Simon Blackwell, dismissed it as ‘too far-fetched’, though he might as well have been talking about the budget as a whole. If the Tories really want to turn themselves into a “Workers’ Party”, they still have a long way to go.

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