18 March 2015
The website Conservative Home asked me to be part of a panel of 10 Conservatives who would each summarise their reaction to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's Budget speech on Wednesday 18 March in 300 words. These needed to be supplied within 60 minutes of the Chancellor stopping speaking.
I decided to focus on the politics of the speech. My comments can be read below.
The other nine contributions to the panel can be read on the Conservative Home website. The Budget speech can be read on the Treasury website.
George Osborne swaggered through today’s Budget speech. He was entitled to. In 2010 he inherited an economy in meltdown. In 2012 his “omnishambles” budget was widely derided. Every year the borrowing targets seemed to be missed. Today he was effectively able to say that he had achieved what he set out to do.
In a selection of his words, “Britain is walking tall again”, “London is the global capital of the world” and “Britain the comeback country.” In the past, the IMF warned that Osborne was following a dangerous plan; in his speech Osborne relished quoting the Secretary General of the OECD “Britain has a long term economic plan, but it needs to stick with it.” The trade deficit is the best for 15 years, and “Britain has the highest rate of employment in its history.”
The ratio of national debt to GDP, which soared as a result of the global financial crisis and the related bank bailouts will fall for the first time under this government, from the debt being 80.4 per cent of GDP in 2014-15 to 80.2 per cent of GDP in 2015-16.
There was something in the Budget for every part of the country; savers, pensioners, annuity holders, the rich, the less well off, first time buyers, northern and Scottish cities, the oil industry, the creative industries etc.
Anyone watching would have been cheered.
Osborne’s key challenge was to balance convincing people that he has succeeded while reminding them that there is a lot to do, that we need to stick to the plan and that, if we do, things will become not just a bit better but much better for everyone. Getting that balance right was always going to be hard. I think he achieved the first part, but worry that the second message might be ignored by voters.
Mohammed Amin is a Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser, and is Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum. He is writing in a personal capacity.