George Osborne for the first time appeared nervous. No Chancellor in recent memory, apart from perhaps Gordon Brown, in the early years of New Labour appeared so cocksure. For three years Osborne has had to dress up bad news as good news. He cherry picked the statistics that suited him best, of course all Chancellors do this but this was something that Osborne attacked his predecessors for. Yes, the Coalition came into tough times economically but they are now three years into what was termed a five year project. However, this has now been extended and one does start to wonder if they can generate the growth this country needs.
This was a budget for hardworking people as Osborne proclaimed and boy did he come out fighting in the Commons and in the process lost his voice. How did it add up? He borrowed something old and made it new in his new housing policy or “Help to Buy” which would make Thatcher proud. In very limited space Osborne had very little to play with in this budget and in the long term this budget will not make much difference in bringing a quicker recovery.
At the last general election the Conservatives and more importantly Cameron/Osborne placed their economic performance and credibility on retaining the AAA rating. Osborne is sticking to his Plan A and this budget was aimed at pleasing Middle England, a key electoral grouping, with the freezing of fuel duty and a cut in beer duty by 1p.
This budget, however, had no mention whatsoever of the recent loss of the AAA rating and that is not surprising as it is politically damaging to the Chancellor and his party. A point that I am sure that Labour will be playing on between now and the next election. One aspect of the budget which would interest the new Bank of England Governor Mark Carney was an increase in his remit. Obviously, the Chancellor was looking towards what the Bank of Canada was doing under Carney from 2009.
Growth is the key to taking a country out of recession and sadly the UK is lacking the vigorous growth to pull itself out of this recession so far. This budget was an opportunity for this Chancellor to be radical in tackling the deficit and promote growth sadly he has missed this opportunity.
This is the joint profile of Aaron Callan and Brian John Spencer, Northern Ireland’s finest purveyors of the weekly overview: “The Comment on the Week”
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