Today must have been the day from hell for the Labour Party, as not only did they have to endure George Osborne unveiling a set of fair and sound changes in this year’s Budget, but they also had to experience the pain of watching Ed Miliband attempt to respond to these proposals. Predictably, Miliband trotted out the usual platitudes, accusing Osborne of failing to fix the economy (which Labour trashed in the first place) and cutting taxes for the rich whilst the rest of the nation suffers (which is just simply untrue, and always has been). But despite Labour’s protestations, Osborne should be commended for delivering a Budget that will truly help the British people by implementing some truly conservative policies.
The tabloids have been quick to dub this the ‘beer and bingo’ Budget, as Osborne has announced that beer duty and tax on bingo halls will be cut. Such measures may be shameless in their populism, but are certainly not bad ways to reach out to those people who often feel disillusioned by an ‘out of touch’ Conservative Party. And regardless of their populism, these measures already seem to be working; immediately after the cuts to bingo duty were announced, bingo hall operator Rank Group announced plans for three new clubs. The lesson – tax cuts are popular, they work, and they are vital to create jobs and stimulate the economy.
Beer and bingo aside, Osborne proved his Thatcherite credentials by announcing that the government’s Help to Buy housing scheme will be extended, good news for aspiring homeowners across the country. Likewise, the level of earnings exempt from income tax has been increased by £500, whilst the threshold for the 40p tax rate has also risen. These are all positive measures, reducing the amount of tax being paid at all income levels and rendering Labour’s arguments about the Conservatives just helping the rich absolutely meaningless.
Osborne also appealed directly to pensioners by announcing radical reform of the pensions system. In a move which will help 13 million people, the changes reduce the level of tax on a person’s pension pot, and abolish all restrictions on access to those pension pots, ending the mandatory purchasing of an annuity. This is a shrewd move from the Chancellor, and one which looks ahead to next year’s general election due to the high voting levels of pensioners. The ‘grey vote’ cannot be underestimated, and the Conservatives cannot afford to risk losing votes from this particular demographic.
Overall, the Budget is hugely promising, proving that by implementing policies which are unashamedly conservative, all people stand to benefit. The Conservatives are slowly beginning to prove that they understand what ordinary people want, outclassing the Labour Party in the process. The pitiful sight of Ed Miliband simply repeating tired soundbites in response was proof that Labour haven’t got a clue, and are not fit to govern. Let’s just hope that the recovery isn’t jeopardised at next year’s general election, because we as a nation cannot afford to hand the keys back to the people who crashed the car.