There’s an old adage that a Budget which is well received turns out to be not so good when its full impact is later felt.
As an observer I thought that for presentation and confidence George Osborne put in a good performance.
A first Budget for a young Chancellor who’s only been in the job for six weeks is a daunting task, and Mr Osborne more than met the standard required of him.
But, as a partisan politician, my compliments about the content of the Budget statement, rather than its delivery, are rather thin, and for good reasons.
The “emergency” with which this Budget has been tagged is of this new Government’s own making.
Their overblown rhetoric, inaccurately comparing the UK’s position with Greece and talking down the inherent position of the UK economy, has forced them into taking some harsh decisions which time is likely to show will be unnecessarily damaging to our economy and to the lives of the vast majority of the British people.
They argue that the deficit is so huge that only the roughest kind of surgery could cure it. Now I am not in the least complacent about the deficit.
However, the issue is not about whether action is taken to cut the deficit – about which there can be no argument – but how quickly and by how much. We would have halved the deficit in four years – and far from Alistair Darling “fiddling” the figures for pre-election consumption, the new Government’s own “Office of Budget Responsibility” shows the deficit for the last financial year, and again for this year, £10bn below Mr Darling’s March estimates.
Our total debt is half that of Greece. When the banking collapse began in 2008 we had similar debt to France and the US (and well below Japan and Italy), and that was where we were due to end up.
There was therefore nothing “unavoidable” about this Budget.
It’s a result of explicit choices made by the Conservative leadership. It will, I believe, undermine the recovery.
And don’t just take that from me.
President Obama has just written a lengthy letter to leaders of the “G20” group of the most industrialised nations, pleading with them not to take action which could put world economic prospects into reverse – in other words opposing the prevailing European view.
Nor is there much “fair” or “progressive” about this Budget. The small print shows the poorest 10 per cent will proportionately lose slightly more of their income from the changes than those with twice their income.
Then there’s the impact on our area. The North West Regional Development Agency is to be abolished.
And in four years all public services apart from the NHS face having one pound in every four cut from their budget.
But whether we agree with it or not we can all understand why the Conservatives have introduced this Budget. It’s what they do. But as for the Liberal Democrats? Words almost fail me. From VAT rises to these huge cuts they are now voting for measures they opposed seven weeks ago, and said they would never back.