SKETCH: The Sanity of King George


Despite what the Left says, there were no bombs in the Budget box.

It’s odd, is it not, that the Left and its media followers in Office never listen to a word said by the person on the Clapham laptop – but once in Opposition, they can’t wait to tell us all what The People think.

Yesterday, the Guardian triumphantly observed that 63% of the electorate think the Coalition has exaggerated the deficit. I find it hard to conjure up a nice way of saying this, but if that’s the case, then I regard the finding as significant only in the context of education policy. It truly, deeply doesn’t matter a US General’s cuss what the average Brit voter thinks about the deficit, because they don’t know. They do know that vetting and barring was a mad idea, that social workers are devious, judges bent and police useless. But they know those things because they have had repeated experience of them in that real life far away from the red carpet.

From Sunday onwards, the media temperature in the fluffy sector was on the rise as every last member of the failed bourgeois Left attempted to explain why this ‘Tory Coalition’ (they never call the Government anything else) could not be trusted. The Independent described David Cameron as ‘relishing’ the opportunity to empty the pockets of the Workers. But The Guardian (and its Sunday best The Observer) surpassed themselves and everyone else in an orgy of delusional Tory-bashing. This Budget was ‘simply not necessary’. It was ‘an excuse to extract vengeance upon Labour voters’. The cuts were ‘brutish’ said Will Hutton.

This was a tricky call for Will, because these were cuts he hadn’t seen yet – and he has, of course, accepted a post in charge of the Public Sector pay review. Give him a month or two, and Mr Hutton will be penning a column explaining how, without this Budget, his January claim that ‘this is the year the world economy will start motoring again’ would’ve been accurate.

And of course, when it comes to this sort of thing, he’ll be in bad company. First out of the trap for pinning his own cockup on George Osborne was the SNP’s John Swinney, who said that the Budget had ‘smothered Scotland’s recovery’. Well John, you’re the one who wants independence – so we’ll just take the whole £27.6 billion in subsidies back, and you can be on your way.

Harriet Harman went to page one of her pocket Manual of Budget Soundbites to describe the Osborne package as ‘a Budget of broken promises’. This would’ve represented an entirely accurate observation had she’d been talking about New Labour promises, because George’s first Budget ignored every last one of them.

But in saying this, Labour’s stand-in all-Women leader did reflect the attitude of academics and the Left-leaning generally: that is, ‘no matter how crap we were, the Evil Party is in power now, and so any and all lies are allowable in a just cause’. Berthold Brecht, eat your heart out.

The new Chancellor did what anyone with an ounce of commonsense would’ve done: avoid investment cuts where possible, whack up indirect taxes, increase the personal allowances to give some relief to the worst-off, and cut silly waste. Personally I would’ve cut more (because there is far more to cut) and given more tax relief to those at the bottom – but these are nit-picky points. Repaying the deficit via 77% public expenditure cuts and 23% tax increases is a reasonable balance. It certainly isn’t going to affect the private sector either way, because that sector is in a dreadful state thanks to the previous management’s unfamiliarity with the term.

Many folks naturally wanted a greater level of retribution to be applied to the banks. Were I the occupant of Number Eleven, this would’ve involved a Maoist scheme whereby all banking directors spent three years picking hops with their teeth – but that’s neither here nor there. The banks (despite endless spin designed to suggest the contrary) remain in an appalling financial mess, and so any levy could only ever be a sop.

I note from the early editions that this has got the class warriors on the attack, but after thirteen years of licking the banks all over (including a knighthood for Fred Goodwin) the Opposition can hardly complain. The other warriors (on the Tory right) would’ve happily goaded the Unions with whopping middle-class tax cuts, and so we can expect another blast from Lord Tebbitt in his blog this morning.

But the Tory Right are like the Libero-Left: for them, vengeance is a virtue. For the rest of us concerned with more mortal practicalities, the Pound is up 1.6 cents against the euro, and the market reaction has been generally favourable. Hurrah. Now for the difficult bit: restructuring the economy.