|Welcome to Bankrupt Britain Posted by Ian at 3 35 PM on Wednesday, April 22|
Gordon Brown may as well order the removal vans now, because today’s Budget has just guaranteed he will lose the next General Election.
Alistair Darling knew he had a near impossible task today. There was no way he was going to be able to balance the books and give out something to the voters.
But he didn’t even try.
There is no way that a new tax on the rich, a few pence on fags and booze and some so-called efficiency savings will pay back the mind-boggling £298 BILLION he’s going to borrow before going to the polls next year.
Today’s tax rises will put something like £3 billion back in the coffers, which looks like a shortfall to me, and confirms we’ll be paying this off for decades.
So the tax rises, pub closures and the annual kicking for smokers is simply tokenism.
This Budget is a classic exercise in holding the Labour Party together until the Election.
A few months ago Health Minister Ivan Lewis was the mouth-piece for a bunch of Labour backbenchers who wanted to use Labour’s unpopularity for a bit of class warfare.
Brown’s response? A 50p in the Pound tax.
Then he gets a delegation claiming Britain is drinking itself to death.
Brown’s response? Forget the hundreds of pubs closing down every week, let’s hike the prices.
Then every trade union queues up to remind him that their members, sitting pretty in public sector jobs, don’t want to be treated like normal people in a recession.
Brown’s response? Borrow more cash to keep the unions that now pay the Labour Party’s wage bill happy.
Today there was no clear message about the true state of the British economy. In the Autumn’s Pre Budget report Alistair Darling will have to admit it’s got worse.
And in the unlikely prospect of things getting better next Spring he won’t get any credit for making a difference because no-one will believe him.
Instead of clearing the decks, making some proper savings and announcing a freeze on tax rises and borrowing, Brown and Darling have fudged, deceived and compromised.
In the Lobby outside the House of Commons chamber, one pale-faced middle-ranking Minister told me “That was buttock-clenchingly awful. What the hell are we going to be able to sell on the doorstep from that?
“In my constituency, people are having the cars they were encouraged to buy on tick towed away, so this £2000 for an old banger means nothing.
“We’re finished. It’ll be civil war next week.”
Today all feels a very long way away from 1997, when Tony Blair promised no income tax rises and a plan to slash unemployment.
Now, mired in the worst recession for a decade, Gordon Brown is gambling on the economy starting to grow again next year so he can start paying off his overdraft.
And he’s hoping to fight the next election on a class war – tax the rich, make them pay.
Farewell to aspiration. Hello to Bankrupt