The Budget used to be easy. In childhood it felt as though at some point around St Patrick’s Day a grey man with a battered red case would stand in front of a black door beside a previously invisible wife. Some time after the evening news your father would hurrumph that it doesn’t make any difference anyway.
From a distance of 35 years, it was all about fags and booze. The following day, simple graphics would appear in the paper showing a penny on a packet of B&H and ha’penny on a pint. Life would go on until the next time.
The order of cost/benefit was neatly prescribed. If the Tories were in power, there would be some chat about taxes going down. If it was the other side (though that was less frequent, barely remembered) talk would be of taxes going the other way.
Still, no matter who was in power, it was alien, a ruling class who’d chat to each other, hand down pronouncements, then we’d all get back to where we were. We didn’t even really see them until 25 years ago when live TV broadcasts were okayed for the Commons.
Now, there is much more vision but much less clarity.
The idea of George Osborne raising the threshold for a higher rate of tax was leaked at least a week before the Budget. This helps higher and medium-high earners. It continues to build the position that George’s party have played well since the election; that they are for the ‘hard-working’ many allowing the grafters to keep brass in pocket.
The lifting of threshold for low earners to £11k before any tax is paid is part of the same narrative. The fact that this part is a LibDem coalition initiative will be neatly sidestepped.
Is there a chance that this has less to do with the good of the nation and more to do with the good of George?
But why is George doing things like this? Is the austerity chancellor looking to be liked? Is there a chance that this has less to do with the good of the nation and more to do with the good of George? The big seat at Number 10 will be vacant soon.
While the chancellor is playing for love and kisses, John McDonnell, his opposite number, is suddenly channelling Micawber. He is Mr Fiscal Responsibility, keen to show he has no truck with old Labour ideas. Or old New Labour ideas. Which also leaves his former colleagues hanging out to dry as it leaves a tacit implication that Labour WERE to blame for the economic collapse. It is a curious, ironic, reality.
One thing remains certain. Whilst this is all playing out and instant analysis by a phalanx of observers will supply explanations about economic abstractions, people will still suffer. Money available to councils to do things that are necessary in their areas will be cut. Libraries will still close, schools will feel the pinch, care services will shrink. No matter how many ways they claim they are thinking of the many, it’s impossible to see it.
Only we, the people, can effect change on the streets where we live. We will not do this by rising up with pitchforks and cries of bloody insurrection – but by quieter, more focused action. It will not be revolution but adminstration that will drive change. We must demand councils explain actions and become accountable, rather than allow them to hide behind bland meaningless claptrap on shiny websites.
We will bring change by swapping information and tips and help with each other. At The Big Issue we will be a hub for this.
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