50p tax cut caps chances of overall Tory majority in 2015
Opinion Digest: Ian Birrell and Max Hastings on the Budget – and it it time Dr Who had a male assistant?
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MUCH TO ADMIRE - BUT NOT THE 50P CUT
IAN BIRRELL ON THE BUDGET
There was much to admire in this Budget, but that will be lost with the decision to cut the top rate of tax to the very richest, says Ian Birrell in the Guardian. The cut in corporation tax, the lifting of personal allowances and the attack on tax-dodging wealthy homeowners are all positive measures from the Chancellor, but in "cutting the top rate of tax, Osborne has sent a missile into six years of Tory modernisation", and it is this message that will stick with voters. What is odd is that Osborne, politically very shrewd, has made a "basic blunder" by giving into an alliance of the right: "At a time of austerity, fear and difficulty for so many people, he has sent a message that the government is - to quote Ed Miliband - more concerned with millionaires than millions of hard-working families". This is a debatable claim, but income tax is the totemic tax and the Government has left itself open to charges that it is for the rich – and made the task of winning an outright majority in 2015 significantly harder.
BRITAIN FACES YEARS OF STAGNATION
MAX HASTINGS ON THE BUDGET
George Osborne may have delivered his Budget speech with his usual cool confidence, but he announced very little to stimulate small and medium-sized business, writes Max Hastings in the Daily Mail. Indeed, any contributions in this Budget towards the gargantuan task of restoring Britain’s public finances to sustainability are "so tiny as to be scarcely visible through a powerful microscope". Most damning of all, the welfare budget is set to rise, not fall – and this consumes one-third of all state spending. Public spending remains, in real terms, 65 per cent higher than when New Labour took office in 1995, and compared to the £325 billion the Bank of England has pumped into the system to try to promote growth, the Chancellor’s apportionment of a few hundred million is "flea bites". Unless the Government can make Britain a serious place to do business, as today it is not, "the nation faces years of stagnation, unfit to compete with Brazil or India, never mind China".
THE 5OP TAX RATE WAS RAISING REVENUE
STEVE RICHARDS ON THE BUDGET
Often portrayed as a political conjuror, George Osborne had no magic tricks up his sleeve in this Budget, writes Steve Richards in The Independent. There were, however, one or two significant surprises. In explaining the soon-to-be-axed top rate of tax Osborne revealed that it had raised £1 billion in its first year. This is actually "more or less" what was predicted from the 50p rate, and the amount would have risen considerably in each successive year. The Chancellor seems to have acted too swiftly here, and this more than anything will make this Budget memorable as the one that cut the top tax rate for the rich. Yesterday's Budget had echoes of some of those delivered in the 1980s, although presented in an "unrecognisably different political and economic context". Labour suggested it showed the Government were the same old Tories, but if that message starts to take hold Osborne and Cameron "will not win elections like those same old Tories did in the 1980s".
TIME FOR A MALE PARTNER FOR DOCTOR WHO?
MATHILDA GREGORY ON THE NEW ASSISTANT
One thing that was never in doubt as fans of Doctor Who waited for the announcement of his new sidekick yesterday was that Matt Smith would be joined by a woman, writes Mathilda Gregory in the Guardian. While it is true that the Doctor is often joined in the Tardis by men - lovesick Rory and the fantastic Captain Jack most recently – "these men have never been companions in their own right". The male-female partnership throws the show into all sorts of clichéd set-ups, from the "super-smart male scientist fixing all the gadgets while being interrupted with annoying questions from a distracting woman, to the woman being carried off by baddies and having to be rescued by her Doctor". There has been a glimmer of light with James Corden’s Craig, seen recently saving the world alongside the Doctor, but it would be truly refreshing to see a regular man... or even a female Doctor with a male sidekick. Tilda Swinton would fit the bill.