THE BUDGET, naturally enough, dominates all comment today…
In The Daily Telegraph, Benedict Brogan says the budget tells us that Labour will fight the next election on an old-fashioned platform of wealth-destroying taxes and reckless spending. Simon Heffer believes the idiocy, bigotry, tribalism and sheer class hatred of the budget not only shows that the Labour party has no interest in ‘middle England’, but that it seeks to persecute that constituency for its own political advantage. Roger Bootle believes the startling thing about the budget is that, gargantuan though the forecast borrowing numbers are, they are still likely to prove too low. Damian Reece says two words emerge from yesterday’s budget speech: debt and tax. Tom Stevenson is not surprised Britain’s hard-pressed savers have received little from the chancellor.
Tracy Corrigan says the realisation that any hope of salvation now seems to be pinned on greening the economy left her quaking. Vince Cable, the Lib-Dem treasury spokesman, says yesterday’s budget brought home with brutal clarity the central dilemma in economic policy: rapidly rising unemployment in a deep recession calls for government intervention and investment. Chris Sanger, head of tax policy at Ernst & Young, believes the tax options chosen by the chancellor are at least suspect. Edmund Conway believes that the government borrowing figures are eye-watering and he says the ministers who delivered the budget may be turfed out next year, but treasury workers will be cleaning up their bosses’ mess for decades to come.
In The Times, Anatole Kaletsky argues that Darling has saved the economy. Unfortunately the economy he has saved is the wrong one. Peter Riddell argues that the Labour strategy rests on a combination of getting the bad news out of the way now; hoping, as Darling said, that the economy will “start growing again towards the end of the year”; and delaying the pain until after the election. David Wighton argues that for cynics the 50% top rate tax looks suspiciously like a ploy to distract attention from the scale of the crisis in Britain’s public finances. Matthew Parris says that the central challenge that stared the Tory benches in the face yesterday is how to bring down state spending before it destroys national solvency.
In The FT, Jonathan Guthrie notes that Darling urged Britons to replace their clapped-out old rustheaps with something new and shiny, Guthrie notes. There were obvious parallels between his scrappage scheme and the junking that pollsters predict for New Labour. Philip Stephens thinks David Cameron’s response to Darling’s budget was that of a politician on the threshold of Downing Street. Martin Wolf asks whether the government is, at last, being realistic about the scale of the disaster.
The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee says at last we have a budget that calls the bluff of the super-rich. Yet it’s all too late. Jonathan Freedland says that in a return to the class politics Tony Blair and New Labour once sought to abolish, the chancellor aimed to craft a political coalition out of the middle class and the needy against the hated rich. Larry Elliott feels the budget’s weaknesses greatly outweigh its strengths. Will Hutton thinks Darling did very well in a tight spot.
This was a budget that was always going to disappoint those seeking a big fiscal stimulus targeted on jobs, says David Blanchflower, an influential member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. Darling’s Budget didn’t go down well in the boardrooms of big business, Ruth Sunderland comments. Dan Roberts believes the bankers are back in charge. Cars and coal were the winners on the environmental front in Darling’s Budget, George Monbiot argues.
The Independent’s Steve Richards says the chancellor himself is no orator, delivering bad and good news in the same understated manner. And yet the event was curiously gripping. Hamish McRae believes the budget marks the end of an era; that moment when we all know, deep down, that everything will be different. John Rentoul observes that Cameron’s response to the budget was extraordinary. He sat tight and said nothing. Jeremy Warner asserts that in terms of its economics, this was one of the most unconvincing budgets of the modern era. Stephen King notes that Cameron may be licking his lips at the thought of a return to Conservative rule but, after yesterday’s budget bombshells, he’d be wise to heed some lessons from history.
Sean O’Grady, economics editor, says it’s shocking that Britain seems set for decades of sluggish growth and a return to the 60s and 70s. Julian Knight reckons the biggest message from the budget is that the biggest public finance mess since the war will be sorted by clobbering the very well-off. Tony Juniper, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Cambridge, thinks the budget was greener than it might have been but it did not signal the scale of change needed to match the challenges we face.
Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, says it’s vital to realise that the tap cannot be turned on and off with regards to science and technology. Emma Soames, editor of Saga magazine, suggests that people, particularly the elderly, have been punished in the budget for showing prudence. Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) thinks the budget is unlikely to raise extra revenue; it is just playing politics with the Tories to try and get dividing lines. Marilyn Stowe, celebrity divorce lawyer, says she was shocked by the tax hike to 50%. She feels people who are really trying to build Britain have been badly hit by this. And Julia Neuberger, Lib-Dem peer, says the budget was a golden opportunity to free up social housing by investing in it and it’s a real shame that it’s been missed.
The Daily Mail’s Alex Brummer believes that for the third year in a row, Alistair Darling has ignored the enormous scale of the biggest calamity to have faced the British economy and public finances for a generation. Instead of addressing the truth, he has simply painted an optimistic picture of a new dawn and talked about recovery by the end of the year. Quentin Letts thinks Labour MPs did not enjoy yesterday’s budget, with many looking wary, even a little bored. Edward Heathcoat-Amory notes that although pre-budget briefings suggested Darling might defy the prime minister and take an axe to public spending, the truth is very different. Dominic Sandbrook argues that Darling needs a history lesson after abandoning the basic rule of prudent housekeeping and hard choices. Peter Oborne thinks Darling lacked the courage to make the unpopular spending cuts that are urgently needed. The pathetic chancellor offered gimmick rather than substance.
The Sun’s Kelvin MacKenzie says that the stress and strains in families caused by Gordon Brown’s ten-year plan to take us back to old-fashioned socialism will see a massive increase in personal stress. The Daily Mirror’s Kevin Maguire says Darling hasn’t let a crisis go to waste by playing Robin Hood � taking from the rich to give to the poor gives a radical edge to an otherwise drab budget.
In The Daily Express, Alison Little describes the budget as a road crash from the decent, but bland and uninspiring Darling. While Peter Cunliffe notes how people in the City were left gasping at the sums involved � even when people thought it was impossible for the government to come up with any numbers more mind-bogglingly large than those associated with the banking bailout. Chris Torney argues that Darling has once again failed to offer any real assistance to those who need it most, like pensioners and savers. Patrick O’Flynn describes the budget as a tawdry exercise in tribal politics, lying to voters about the extent of Britain’s bankruptcy and punishing the affluent.