Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Budget Reactions

Thanks to everyone who joined in today's Live Blogging session which was simultaneously carried by 10 blogs across the Blogosphere.  My reactions whilst listening live was much the same as those also taking part.

What did people think of today's budget?

What did the Tax Payers Alliance think to Darling's last Budget Speech?  Chief Executive Matthew Elliot is quoted on their web page as saying:

"The Chancellor has utterly failed to face up to the horrific scale of Government borrowing and debt. There was a handful of tax holidays and spending cuts, but nothing to deal with the debt addiction which threatens to make Britain the next Greece. The public are crying out for serious and sizeable spending cuts to rebalance the books, but the Government is living in La-La Land. Large spending cuts are essential for taxpayers and for the health of the economy but Gordon Brown only knows how to spend more, not less. We need a real Budget after the election that faces up to the serious realities of our situation."

BTW the TPA has released their manifesto ahead of the General Election which is riddled with common sense ideas which no doubt millions of people would vote for - expect the political parties to brand it as "popularist" as they do with most ideas which people might actually like.

What did Fraser Nelson think?

Personally, I forgive Darling all the partisan stuff in his speech - this is a pre-election Budget after all. There is no act of wanton vandalism, like the 50p tax. Stamp duty on properties over 1m is rising from 4 percent to 5 percent, but does anyone seriously think this would not have happened under the Tories? And there was quite a bit of sense. Entrepreneurs’ tax relief for capital gains tax was doubled to £2 million. There was no extra splurge. All told, Darling did what he could to salvage his own reputation before he passes into history as the Chancellor who picked up the most poisoned of all chalices from his predecessor. 

What did the BBC's Douglas Fraser think?

It's a bad day for scrumpy, cider and the Wurzels, and a good day for kids who make their living making and playing computer games.
Duty on cider is soaring by 10%, on top of an alcohol tax accelerator.
The cynic might look at a map of the cider-producing counties of England, and find few marginal constituencies in which Labour is a contender at the general election.

What did Sky New's Jon Craig think?

After the Budget, I asked the Treasury pointyheads who always give a thoroughly baffling briefing to economically illiterate political correspondents just how many people would be affected by the Belize crackdown.
"Errrr," came the reply. Embarrassed shuffling of feet and staring at their shiny shoes.
"How much will this raise for the Treasury?" someone else asked. No answer to that, either.
Never mind, a shameless piece of tribal, class war, stuff-the-Tories politics had cheered up Labour MPs as they prepare to go back to their constituencies and defend their seats in the weeks ahead.

What did the Adam Smith Institute think?  Dr Eamonn Butler replies:

the Chancellor did not mention that the trade deficit had risen by £7bn or that business investment has fallen 5%. Nor that a government which was borrowing £6bn a year when it came in is now borrowing 27 times that, at £167bn in 2009/10 and another £163bn forecast for next year.

What did The Fink, think?

Basically nothing happened in this Budget because he had already announced policy earlier.
The entire Budget was anchoring.

What did Michael White of the Guardian Think?

Alistair Darling struck a tone of high-minded responsibility but I was not convinced by the way he magicked away those mountainous deficit and national debt figures

What did Gentle Ben think?

This was his Budget, we are told by the Treasury, meaning that while Mr Brown may have been allowed to have his say (do you think he ever stops to say to his Chancellor ‘thanks for not treating me the way I treated Mr Tony’? no), Mr Darling was in charge. And while he has emerged with credit as one of the few straight-talkers in the gang who kept a cool head while others flapped, he is also a Labour politician who has an election to fight. So in addition to the narrative about tough choices (that Tories would not have made), there were specific digs: the rejection of a unilateral bank tax, the offsetting of a stamp duty cut for first time buyers with an increase for those buying million-pound properties, the boast that most additional tax was coming from the top 5pc of earners, the decision to pay for long term care by freezing IHT allowances, the extension of the ‘temporary’ rise in winter fuel payments for a year inviting a campaign question to the Tories – ‘will you extend it?’ and particularly the partisan attack on Lord Ashcroft via a convenient tax information exchange deal with Belize. It was a pointless Budget without a spending review, but it was above all an election Budget from a Labour politician. 

What did I think now I have had some time to mull things over?

In some regards this was a "pointless budget" but in having said that, the fact that our finances are in grave turmoil and the Chancellor had nothing to offer the people who work in this country but dry humour about tax arrangements with Belize highlights exactly how vacuous the people who make up our cabinet are.

We are screwed.  Royally screwed.  What do Labour propose to do?  Tax us more and borrow more.  Great, thanks, because that has been working really well for the last decade or so hasn't it!

Take the pulse of the people you meet tomorrow and ask them about the budget.  When they have finished bumbling along and regurgitating TV news sound-bites ask them how they will personally benefit?  Cue vacant stares.  

This is a budget that does not benefit individuals, and it does not benefit society, nor set a course to correct the ugly vandalism that has defaced our Exchequer.  It is a Budget by the Labour Party, of the Labour Party and for the Labour Party.  Alistair Darling could not offer anybody any reason to vote Labour even with the control that the Chancellor has; he has crystallised how impotent the Government has become.  The sooner the election is called, the better.

Finally, what did Paul Waugh think?  He wants to know how you can deliver a budget with a straight face when it has so many holes in it!

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