Graeme Morrison, resident leftie of Political Promise writes:
“In what may well be Alistair Darling’s last Budget, the message was clear: the government will continue frontline public services. In perhaps the most hyped Budget in many years, the Chancellor emphasised that it is Labour who are the only party capable of securing our economic recovery. Whether it is enough to keep Labour in office is a different matter of course, but in sum I think it is right to say that it was a very fair and sensible budget.
David Cameron’s performances in PMQs recently have been less than impressive. His performance today was bordering on laughable. It was the same old nonsense about the government being dead on it knees etc. The Budget served to demonstrate that the Conservative Party are an isolated party and their rhetoric regarding “Brown’s recession” has been proven to be nothing more than false sound bites being fed to the electorate.
The main highlights for the media was the abolition of stamp duty for first time buyers on homes priced up to £250,000. It is a sensible and fair to impose a duty of 5% on homes at over a million pounds. The Conservatives seemed angered at Labour “stealing” their policy. Is that not the objective of the Opposition – to try and influence the government when possible? The Conservatives have said they wouldn’t reverse the 5% duty on million pound homes. I am highly sceptical of this. After all, did David Cameron not say that it was the “problem of socialism” that “pretty soon you run out of spending other people’s money”. So, I wouldn’t be too confident of that Cameron pledge.
For me, two points stood out. The creation of new university places and the rise in the winter fuel allowance were particularly pleasing. In a time when there is a huge demand for university places, the government must take on extra responsibility to ensure as many of our young people have access to higher education as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if I were to hear Tory cries of the government “throwing money at the problem”. Surely though, it is essential that we offer stimulating prospects to our young people. This is a step forward. For Scotland, an extra £80m should help the Scottish government, although they will certainly still find a way to have a moan about being treated shoddily by big bad Westminster. The winter fuel allowance has been a revelation for so many pensioners in this country and providing more help in tough financial times is nothing less than I would expect of Labour.
The other notable points of today’s budget were that duty on cigarettes, fuel and alcohol (particularly cider) has been raised. Hardly unexpected. Responsible. Fair. Nothing much else to add.
Ultimately, this Budget was never going to be glamorous. It did however show that in tough economic times services like hospitals and schools do not need to suffer, but in fact must be a priority in how money is spent. Claims that the government has left the country in a mess are way off the mark. Darling in fact did not need to do much to show that the Conservatives are inefficient. They did that when they argued that markets always self correct and never self destruct.
Final Thought: “Labour have made a complete mess of the British economy.” (David Cameron – former economic adviser to Norman Lamont) ”
Charlie Edwards, Political Promise’s founder and unashamed Toryboy says:
“The last budget before the election has proved a swansong for a miserable and failing government and little else. It wasn’t the ‘giveaway’ electioneering budget the critics anticipated, yet there was no solid economic action from Alastair Darling or Gordon Brown. Nick Clegg lambasted the Chancellor as “in denial” and David Cameron attacked the level of debt as we spend “more money spent on servicing our debt than educating our children”. The economy has contracted 6% in this recession, and the Chancellor made no points as how we can remedy this. We were the first into the recession, and last out. David Cameron told us Britain had fell from 7th in the world for competitiveness to 13th. With a debt of £167 billion to contend with, you can sympathise with David Cameron’s claim that this government “is like every Labour government before them, leaving it to the next Conservative government to clean up the mess”. Darling told us there was “no ideology in his taxes”, which is not only a lie, but a two-fingered salute to the middle-classes he alienates with his fiscal policy. He was telling us all the right things, but we don’t want to hear it anymore.
The main points of the budget are:
1. The nationalisation of the banks will be broken up, and we hope to make our money back on National Rock and Lloyd’s. The bank supertax earned £2 billion, more than the forecasts, and will stay in place until the next budget. The Chancellor welcomed that we need long-term banking reform to prevent excessive risk-taking, although added no ideas on how we should go about it.
2. The Government will scrap the forced retirement age. Can’t argue with that, it is not the government’s place to put an arbitrary limit on one’s economic capabilities. A recent article in The Guardian highlights its benefits.
3. The Government will charge no stamp duty for first time buyers of houses up to £250,000. Stamp duty is a disincentive to enter the property ladder and another expense for first-time buyers who have plenty else on their minds.
4. There will be a 3p staggered rise in fuel duty over twelve months, tobacco duty will rise 1% above inflation, and cider will rise 10% above inflation
5. The Government will help small businesses by cutting business rates and freezing capital gains tax.
The Conservative response is a wide ranging of social changes that will have economic impacts. Improving education and getting young people back into work or training will improve the economy’s productive capacity and lower unemployment. The creation of an independent office of budget resposibility will keep future fiscal policy audited and monitored away from political influence. The Tories will further this feeble budget by guaranteeing we will hold an emergency budget within weeks of getting elected. There will be a top-down audit of Government, to squeeze out more than the £11 billion efficiency cuts, including reducing ministers pay and the number of MPs by 10%.
The patience in Labour’s short-term stop-gap policies is wearing thin with voters. We need real change that only the Conservatives can offer to increase our international standing, to get more people back into work, to enable economic growth and the ability for further economic development that provides. Today was just not good enough, Darling.”