There were three things that came out of George Osborne’s budget that need to be highlighted.
The first is that while there were some good announcements that should be welcomed by everyone except the most partisan Labour hacks (£2K employment allowance and £10K personal tax allowance coming next year), do-gooding public health fascists (1p off beer duty and beer duty escalator abolished) or flat earth environmentalists (encouraging shale gas exploration, no increase in fuel duty) this budget is still a casualty of Osborne’s poor first budget that did not cut public spending far enough and fast enough to provide room for growth-giving tax cuts for working families.
The second is that Osborne still indulges in Continuity Brown economic policies of making things more complex and providing subsidies (his new help to buy scheme is a massive subsidy that will have to be phased out within five years so it does not overheat the property market) – when making things simpler and removing regulations is cheaper and can pay sustainable dividends (so more houses are built, that people can afford).
The third is that Ed Miliband has no alternative economic policy. The Leader of the opposition’s reply was appalling.
It was lame pantomime fare; if I were unemployed, heavily in debt, had poor savings, on a low pension or trying to buy a home I would be asking myself what’s the wrong Miliband offering me?
Some easy jokes at Osborne’s expense would give me no comfort. One joke is fine, two still funny, but a litany of personal invective as stand-up does not pass muster as a budget reply.