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UK Budget: Brilliant, Unorthodox Conservatism



On Wednesday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his Spring Budget. Like any budget, that clearly needs analysing – which is my main goal in this article.

 

But before we get bogged down in the depths of finance, let’s take a minute to deal with Lord Peter Mandelson – the brains behind New Labour, and now a top Labour adviser. Because this hateful man decided to cloud Budget Day by giving politicians a fashion lecture. Mandelson said Rishi’s suits are too tight and his ties too narrow; and he ‘fat-shamed’ Keir Starmer, who was told he should ‘shed a few pounds’.

 

If this is the sort of political strategist Labour are employing, they may as well give up hope for an election landslide. Peter Mandelson – for some God forsaken reason – is considered a political genius in the Labour Party. And yet, here he is on Budget Day absolutely slating Labour’s leader.

 

Enough about Mandelson. Onto the juicy stuff.

 

Jeremy Hunt’s Budget headliner was undoubtedly the 2p cut in National Insurance (NI) – down from 10% to 8% for employees, and from 8% to 6% for the self-employed. This means if you earn £35,000 a year, you’ll save £450 a year. That’s a good saving for working families.

 

Keir Starmer still had a bone to pick – even though the Labour Party are supposed to like governments helping working families. He’s grumpy because tax thresholds haven’t increased as well. In short, this means if you get a pay rise that puts you into a higher tax bracket, you will still end up paying more tax – making the NI saving pointless.

 

Whilst Keir has a point, workers these days aren’t that silly. They refuse pay rises which will cost them more in tax. Instead, people sacrifice some salary for extra benefits, such as a company car, bicycle or health insurance. These are all good things helping to improve living standards for families. Clearly Labour’s strategists were too busy thinking up fat jokes to bother about working people.

 

There’s more good news for ordinary folk as well. More people will receive child benefits than before, supporting families in the cost-of-living crisis. What’s more, the extended fuel duty freeze means petrol and diesel will be cheaper – so those families can pop their fully-funded kids in the car and go on a summer holiday without breaking the bank. Finally, if a family needs to sell their house for a bigger one because they’ve got 22 kids, they’ll keep more of their house-selling profits.

 

The Tories are doing all they can to help people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. Jeremy Hunt is managing to save the economy whilst running more marathons than Paula Radcliffe. And what are Labour doing? Fat-shaming each other.

 

The Chancellor is funding his support for working families by slapping higher taxes on elites who live in Kensington with an Aston Martin parked outside. Taxes for business class flights are going up, and the windfall tax on energy firms has been extended until 2029. Additionally, people buying second homes will face higher stamp duty, making homes more affordable and accessible for young first-time buyers.

 

It’s not just about working families, though. It’s about hardworking businesses. Smaller businesses have effectively had a VAT cut, meaning they pay less tax. The Covid-era loan scheme for small businesses has been extended until 2026. And permanent tax reliefs for orchestras means we will endlessly be entertained by Hans Zimmer and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

 

Everywhere you look, it’s just excellent.

 

Except, that is, if you’re a pensioner. Pensioners have been completely left out of the Spring Budget. This shows the government is looking firmly towards Britain’s prosperous future rather than its past, which is a good thing. And it means the Conservatives won’t endlessly be called ‘Tory scum’ on Twitter by enraged ‘forgotten’ youths.

 

But forgetting about pensioners is a problem for a government of any political party – not least because everyone knows from the film Hot Fuzz that old people are capable of rioting with pitchforks and saucepans.

 

Pensioners are the people who you can almost guarantee will turn out to vote on election day. In the 2019 General Election, turnout ranged from 47% among 18 to 24-year-olds up to 74% among over-65s. If you want to win an election in the UK, you need to please the retirement villages. Because it’s the golden oldies who will actually go to the polling station. Any government needs those crucial votes.

 

However, the problem is accentuated for the Conservatives. Almost 60% of 64 to 69-year-olds would vote Conservative today, versus just 15% of 18 to 21-year-olds. Focusing on working families is a poisoned chalice for the Conservatives. On the one hand, they are delivering measures that most people want to see. But leaving out pensioners – who, let’s not forget, are also struggling with the cost of living – to focus on families means a considerable voting base could be alienated. That doesn’t bode well for the Tories’ already worrying election forecasts.

 

So, the conclusion from Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget is quite unorthodox. Labour-stronghold working families have taken priority, meanwhile Tory-heartland pensioners have been forgotten. There is an entire array of positive policies in the Chancellor’s Budget, but a core Tory voting base seems to have been left out.

 

This all makes it a Budget of contradictions. So perhaps after all that hard work analysing the Budget, people will vote based on who’s got the narrowest tie, or who’s the fattest.



Image: Getty Images/via Bloomberg

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