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Budget 2010: Labour declares class war

The real loser in today's Budget was obvious - a cider drinker who lives in a £1m farmhouse in the country.

From Sunday you'll have to pay 10p a  pint more on your cider and 5% stamp duty if you want to sell the farmhouse.  

Chuck in the fact that your petrol has just gone up so you can’t even drive to the pub...

But there weren’t many Labour votes left among Britain’s cider-drinking millionaires, anyway.  

There are a lot of potential votes among young families, among the unemployed who are struggling to get back to work and young people who are desperate to get on the property ladder but are struggling to get a mortgage.

That is where Alistair Darling pitched his Budget.  

He doesn’t care about Middle England. With a General Election campaign now just a fortnight away this was all about trying to reassure these key voters that they will be safer with a Labour government.

That was reinforced with a series of guarantees – to find young people a job or training, to cut the government’s deficit and to protect spending to front line services.

They are also hoping that promises to move tens of thousands of civil servants out of London, to save £11 billion by improving efficiency and to squeeze public services without cutting their front-line budgets will be enough to show he is putting a crake on government spending.

As you might expect so close to an election, there were lots of traps for the Tories to fall in to during the General Election campaign – the Chancellor stole the Tories’ plan to cut stamp duty for first time buyers while increasing the taxes paid by million pound home owners.

Will the Tories scrap the 50% tax rate on top earners?

Will they scrap Labour’s plans to pay for long term care for the elderly by freezing inheritance tax levels?

Will they halt Alistair Darling’s promise to extend a “temporary” rise in winter fuel payments for the elderly for another year?

And, finally, will they scrap the new agreement that will allow HM Customs and Revenue to ask the Belize government for details of the tax affairs of a certain Tory Party Vice Chairman?

Those are the questions Labour will be asking as they seek to make the general Election a straight fight between Labour, who promise “fairness” and the Tories, who promise, in their words, “damaging cuts”?

But will this be enough to reverse the polls and put Labour in the driving seat over the next few months?

It’s unlikely – Alistair Darling is still going to borrow an eye-popping £160 billion this year. He has given the public sector a two year pay freeze and has delayed any of the massive cuts in public spending that need to happen to get the economy moving again and pay off the government’s debts.

Those delays will do nothing to make the public feel safer or more confident that things will get better under a Labour government.

Alistair Darling is a fair, measured and honest politician. A decent man who has shown immense strength and courage to withstand Downing Street’s demands for a Budget that promised more spending using other people’s money.

But he has got no money to spend. And the economy is still in a grim state. There are still huge questions to be answered over the next few weeks about what to do to rebuild Britain.



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