Budget 1) “Britain is walking tall again”

150319 Budget montageImage via Nick Sutton.

“Chancellor George Osborne yesterday insisted ‘Britain is walking tall again’ — as he doled out money to savers, strivers, drivers and drinkers. … In a disappointment for some Tory and Lib Dem backbenchers, there was no jumbo surprise pre-election giveaway — despite the growing economy landing Mr Osborne a major windfall. … Instead the jewel of his 59-minute Commons statement was the ‘remarkable’ new set of official figures on jobs and earnings that proved the UK has taken ‘another big step from austerity to prosperity’, he said.” – The Sun (£)

  • “George Osborne declared Britain had reached a ‘massive moment’ after new figures revealed there have never been more people in work. … The Chancellor said 73.3 per cent of working-age people were employed – the highest rate since records began in 1971.” – Daily Mail


  • “One by one, George Osborne shoots Labour’s foxes.” – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • “Budget that makes Labour irrelevant.” – Daily Mail editorial
  • “A more serious charge is that the government is neglecting the nagging problem of weak productivity.” – Financial Times editorial
  • “…the deal still isn’t sealed, not least because – whatever statistics he might cherrypick on living standards – Britain is exhausted by a near decade of stagnation.” – Guardian editorial
  • “The chancellor rejected populism in his pre-election budget. He deserves credit for trusting voters to understand that Britain needs to stick with fiscal prudence.” – Times editorial (£)
  • “A strong performance by George Osborne proved voters have a real choice in May, but gave little cheer to the poor.” – Independent editorial

> Today:

> Yesterday:

Budget 2) Deeper cuts after the election, more spending in 2019

Scissors“Government cuts after the next election will be even deeper than previously announced – but will come to an end earlier than planned, Treasury figures revealed today. … The Government’s spending watchdog said the planned cuts would be deeper than ‘anything seen over the past five years’. … But once the books have been balanced the Government will embark on the biggest increase in spending for a decade in 2019/20.” – Daily Mail

  • “The Treasury will need to find ‘unprecedented’ welfare savings over the next three years for the government to achieve its public spending plans, according to an influential thinktank.” – The Guardian

And comment:

  • “Is public spending being cut to the level of 2000, the mid-1960s or the 1930s?” – Chris Giles, Financial Times
  • “How George Osborne found slack to cut the cuts.” – Chris Giles, Financial Times
  • “The cuts in Government spending which are still to come will be twice as big as anything experienced over the past five years…” – James Slack, Daily Mail
  • “George Osborne’s avowed return to 2000 spending levels lets Labour in.” – Steve Richards, The Independent
  • “As well as reeling off a series of economic milestones, he managed to shoot Labour’s fox.” – Steve Hawkes, The Sun (£)

Budget 3) “We need more than this dull, simplistic budget,” writes Tim Montgomerie

MONTGOMERIE Tim offical“The campaign the Tories are fighting — simplistic, repetitive, dull, muscular, negative — is all Crosby and so was yesterday’s budget. The Office for Budget Responsibility, an independent watchdog, said the measures will have no ‘material impact on the economy’. It was a political statement designed to persuade people that the economy was broken and is now fixed, or at least nearly fixed. It offered no solution to the housing crisis. No answer to Britain’s productivity weaknesses. No explanation of how the still historically large deficit will eventually be closed.” – Tim Montgomerie, The Times (£)

  • “The lucky Chancellor’s 2015 Budget was a triumph of electioneering over economics.” – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph
  • “Will the US spoil George Osborne’s Budget party?” – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph
  • “Walking tall and paying its way? Welcome to George’s hyperbole Britain.” – Larry Elliott, The Guardian
  • “David Cameron may be monarch of Britain’s coalition but George Osborne is its first minister.” – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • “Like a coming-soon trailer, this budget presented a sneak peek of better days to come.” – Matthew d’Ancona, The Guardian
  • “By winning the ideological battle that’s riven Britain, Osborne has proved he’s the biggest man in politics.” – Max Hastings, Daily Mail
  • “Be in no doubt, this is budget is an awesome success story.” – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • “Yesterday it was a different figure who stood there: sleeker, more mature.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • “How could any sane Labour voter not switch to the Tories?” – Simon Heffer, Daily Mail
  • “Fragility lies beneath a bright outlook.” – Martin Wolf, Financial Times
  • “A confident message of simple words.” – Janan Ganesh, Financial Times
  • “Unproductive workers make for a laborious recovery.” – Stephanie Flanders, Financial Times
  • “Some disgruntled Tory MPs even went so far as to label it ‘The Boring Budget’.” – Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun (£)
  • “A jobs miracle is happening in Britain, thanks to tax cuts. Why don’t the Tories say so?” – Fraser Nelson, The Spectator
  • “A typical coalition Budget – designed to put the Tories back in power.” – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • “The Budget showed Osborne’s greatest skill: the ability to rebrand his failure as success.” – George Eaton, New Statesman

Budget 4) Good for the North…

OSBORNE of the north“George Osborne set out his vision for an economic ‘powerhouse’ in the North of England by giving more powers and funding to cities. … He told MPs Britain was experiencing a ‘truly national recovery’ and claimed the North had outpaced the South in job creation over the past year. … Aiming to encourage growth to rival London and the South East, the Chancellor announced new funding for transport, hospitals and industries, from chemicals to new technology.” – Daily Mail

  • “The chancellor on Wednesday promised an energy research centre for the Midlands and more rail and road links for the Southwest.” – Financial Times
  • “George Osborne was accused of betraying northern England by his chief ally in building the ‘northern powerhouse’, even as the chancellor was trumpeting fresh measures for the region.” – Financial Times
  • “Announcements affecting coalition-held marginal seats have left George Osborne and Danny Alexander open to accusations of pork barrel politics.” – The Times (£)

Budget 5) …pensioners…

“Five million pensioners who have already bought an annuity will be allowed to cash it in from April next year, George Osborne said. …. A consultation was launched into plans to offer a potential escape route to people trapped in an annuity they no longer want. … For the great majority of customers, selling their annuity will not be the right decision, the Government has said. … But the option could be suitable for some people who want to exchange some of their retirement income to pay off debts, or help relatives.” – Daily Telegraph

Budget 6) …motorists…

“Fuel duty has been frozen for a fifth year in succession, allowing the Chancellor to boast that motorists have had ‘£10 off a tank with the Tories’. … Yesterday’s move means a 0.54p-per-litre duty rise planned for September 1 will not go ahead. … Between 2011 and 2016, a typical motorist will have saved £675, the Treasury calculated.” – Daily Mail

Budget 7) …the oil and gas industry…

Petrol pump“The decision to cut the petroleum revenue tax from 50 per cent to 35 per cent and the supplementary charge from 30 per cent to 20 per cent triggered an immediate rise in shares of companies who will benefit, such as Premier Oil and Tullow Oil.” – Financial Times

  • “Scotland’s governing party offered guarded approval of the chancellor’s moves to shield the North Sea oil and gas sector from plunging energy prices, but made clear that it was unimpressed by his signals of an easing of UK fiscal austerity.” – Financial Times
  • “The extraordinary extent to which the SNP inflated North Sea oil revenues during the independence referendum has been disclosed by official figures predicting they will be more than 90 per cent lower than the Nationalists claimed.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “Scotland’s councillors have been warned by their spending watchdog that they need far better long-term financial planning and expertise to help manage local authorities’ debts totalling £15bn.” – The Guardian

Budget 8) …drinkers…

“The Budget cut the price of beer duty by 1p alongside a 2 per cent cut to cider duty ‘to support our producers in the West Country and elsewhere’. … He also announced that ‘to back one of the UK’s biggest exports, the duty on Scotch whisky and other spirits will be cut by 2 per cent as well’. … Duties on tobacco and gaming are unchanged and wine duty is frozen.” – Daily Mail

Budget 9) …and savers…

MANIFESTO money“Ordinary families will not have to pay a single penny of tax on their savings, George Osborne announced today. … The Chancellor said he was abolishing all tax on the first £1,000 of interest savers earn from their nest eggs. The move will benefit 17 million who have put aside up to around £35,000. … Until now, people earning less than £42,700 have had to pay 20 per cent tax on the interest they get from their savings – while those on up to £150,000 have been taxed at 40 per cent.” – Daily Mail

  • “Struggling first-time buyers will get £50 from the Government for every £200 they put towards a deposit — in a new ‘savings revolution’.” – The Sun (£)
  • “Rises in the personal tax allowance to £11,000 by 2017 would deliver tax cuts over the same period worth £80 to basic-rate payers and £172 to those on the higher rate.” – The Times (£)
  • “One hundred thousand middle class professional have been taken out of the higher income tax rate under changes unveiled in the Budget.” – Daily Telegraph
  • “George Osborne’s final Budget before the election will shore up support among Tory-inclined voters with gifts for pensioners and savers, according to pollsters.” – Financial Times

Budget 10) …or is it?

“A £1.9billion tax raid on pensions will hit tens of thousands of middle-class savers, experts warned last night. … The Chancellor announced he would slash from £1.25million to £1million the amount someone can pay into their pension over a lifetime without incurring punitive tax charges. … It means that from April 2016, anyone who pays more than £1million into their retirement pot will be taxed at up to 55 per cent on the excess.” – Daily Mail

Budget 11) But bad for the banks

Banks Face 6 Billion Of Libor Litigation“Banks suffered a double blow yesterday when the Chancellor moved to raise £5billion more from the scandal-hit finance industry. … George Osborne announced the closure of a little-known – but highly lucrative – loophole that UK lenders have been exploiting for years. … In a separate move, Mr Osborne revealed another hike in the bank levy which was introduced in the wake of the financial crisis. … This is expected to raise £4.4billion over the next five years, with the two measures expected to raise £5.3billion in total by 2020.” – Daily Mail

  • “Government measures to tackle tax evasion and avoidance – including a fresh tax targeted at the likes of Google and Amazon – will raise £3.1bn for the public purse over the next five years, the chancellor claimed.” – The Guardian

Budget 12) The new pound coin

“An image combining the symbols of the UK’s four nations will sit on the ‘tails’ side, with the Queen’s head on the other side. … The picture of the rose, leek, thistle and shamrock emerging from a Royal Coronet was created by 15-year-old David Pearce. … The schoolboy beat 6,000 other entries to win a public competition organised by The Royal Mint.” – The Sun (£)

Budget 13) Miliband questions Osborne’s claims about living standards

Ed Miliband stare“Mr Osborne was trying to fool voters, the Labour leader said, with his insistence that household disposable income had risen in real terms over the past five years. This was ‘a new measure to pretend that what people feel in their wallets and their pockets simply isn’t true’. … In his formal response Mr Miliband told the chamber that Mr Osborne had produced ‘a Budget that people won’t believe from a government that is not on their side’.” – Financial Times

  • “Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, said Mr Osborne had made more references in his Budget speech to the Battle of Agincourt — the Treasury is helping to fund an anniversary commemoration — than to the NHS.” – Financial Times
  • “George Osborne mocked Ed Miliband with so many measures in his Budget speech that questions were raised over whether he used taxpayers’ money to foot the bill for his jokes.” – The Independent

> Today: Local Government – Labour backs charities spending taxpayers’ money on lobbying

Danny Alexander’s alternative Budget

Libdem bird vs TORY“The Liberal Democrats are to unveil a rival Budget [today] in an unprecedented statement to Parliament which will signal the end of the Coalition. … Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will hold up a yellow budget box – mimicking the red leather case used by the Chancellor – before setting out what his party’s tax and spending priorities after the election. … He will promise to make tax dodging as unacceptable as drink-driving, increase the personal tax allowance to £12,500 and targeting the wealthy instead of cutting spending.” – Daily Mail

  • “Senior Liberal Democrats attacked the Conservatives on Wednesday over their plans for austerity in the next parliament, accusing them of making ideologically motivated cuts that would reduce spending to its lowest point in 50 years.” – Financial Times

And comment:

  • “Jobcentre therapists will boost mental health.” – Nick Clegg, The Times (£)

Cameron pledges to protect schools and synagogues against anti-Semitic attacks…

140115 Cameron on Marr“Jewish schools and synagogues will get £10million a year for guards to protect against anti-Semitic attacks, David Cameron announced last night. … In a hard-hitting speech to Jewish leaders last night, he promised not turn ‘a blind eye’ both to physical attacks and to ‘non-violent extremism’. … The Prime Minister said new money had been found in the Budget to protect the community following the terrorist attacks in Paris and at a synagogue in Denmark.” – Daily Mail

  • “We must listen to Trevor Phillips and his inconvenient truths about race.” – Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph

…reassures child-abuse whistleblowers…

“David Cameron has said he doesn’t want to see anybody prosecuted for passing on information to the police about the possible cover-up of a paedophile ring with alleged links to Westminster in the 1970s. … ‘I don’t want to see anyone prosecuted for uncovering wrongdoing in this way,’ Cameron told MPs in the penultimate session of prime minister’s questions before the general election, saying that both the home secretary, Theresa May, and the attorney general had given reassurances that it is highly unlikely anybody will be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.” – The Guardian

  • “Our Cyril Smith story came out in 1979. What followed was a 36-year cover-up.” – John Walker, The Guardian
  • “Elite is shielding political paedophiles.” – Rod Liddle, The Sun (£)

…and calls for a “united message” to Russia over Ukraine

Russian flag“Wobbling EU chiefs must send a ‘united message’ to Russia to get out of Ukraine, David Cameron will declare – as a peace deal between the countries teeters on the brink of collapse. … The PM will use a Brussels summit to call on his fellow EU leaders not to ease up on economic sanctions imposed on Vladimir Putin’s brutal regime when the conflict broke out. … French president Francois Hollande, as well as political leaders in Italy, Hungary and Slovakia, have all raised the prospect of reducing the pressure on Russia, which supplies much of Europe’s gas.” – The Sun (£)

  • “Russia was again accused of violating a neighbour’s sovereignty last night after President Putin signed a treaty incorporating the breakaway Georgian ­republic of South Ossetia, a year after annexing Crimea from Ukraine.” – The Times (£)
  • “David Cameron is to take up the cause of hundreds of online ‘micro-businesses’ threatened by changes in EU tax rules.” – Daily Telegraph

Grieve warns against leaving the EU

“Two million UK citizens working abroad could become illegal immigrants overnight if Britain were to leave the European Union, former attorney general Dominic Grieve has warned. … In a hard-hitting attack on Eurosceptics inside and outside the Conservative party, Grieve condemned those who want to tear up the UK’s international treaty obligations and withdraw from both the EU and the European Court of Human Rights.” – The Guardian

  • “Estimates of the annual level of net migration over the next five years have been raised by almost 60 per cent by the country’s independent fiscal watchdog.” – The Times (£)

> Yesterday: Daniel Hannan MEP’s column – Scowl, and you’ll help to lose the EU referendum. Smile, and you’ll help to win it.

Iain Duncan Smith: How private finance can revolutionise public services

IDS on Marr“…some lives suffer social breakdown in some of our poorer communities and estates up and down the country. … Meanwhile we have wealth creators with the rigour, discipline and innovation of the private sector, but with a willingness to bring that to the aid of such communities. … Social investment is about bringing these two together. … I believe it stands to make the single, most significant difference to how government funds and deliver social services.” – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph

The courts rule in favour of the benefits cap

“The most powerful judges in the UK have ruled that the government’s benefit cap is legal. … The Supreme Court threw out a challenge brought by two single mums and said the cap, which limits benefits to £26,000 a year for out-of-work families, is legal. … Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith welcomed the news – it is the third time the policy has been dragged through the courts.” – The Sun (£)

  • “David Cameron’s proposal to make weight-loss programmes compulsory for anybody who is obese and claiming benefits is ‘financially and ethically questionable’, according to medical experts.” – The Guardian

Johnson Snr. bets on Johnson Jr.

boris-johnson“Boris Johnson’s dad has bet £20 on his son becoming the next Prime Minister. … Proud ex-Euro MP Stanley reckons the Mayor of London is the only man to replace David Cameron. … The 74-year-old popped into the London Bridge branch of Paddy Power to back the mop-topped golden boy and got odds of 5/1.” – The Sun (£)

Will civil servants be “intimidated” into silence by their new code of practice?

“A ban on civil servants talking to journalists without prior ministerial approval will ‘intimidate’ them into silence, critics said last night. … The Civil Service Code has been revised, with the threat that officials could be sacked if they speak out before checking with a minister. … As well as raising concerns about the transparency of government, there are fears the revision could dissuade whistleblowers from coming forward – meaning scandals could go undetected.” – Daily Mail

Suzanne Moore: “Ukip has peaked, but no one wants to admit it.”

UKIP glass“Looking like every other politician is the worst thing that can happen for Farage, who trades on his ‘difference’ and his ‘telling it like it is’ outsider status. Yet the nearer we get to this listless election, the more he is playing the game that he said he wouldn’t play. To speak of him and his party as insurgents is like calling Prince Harry a republican. Ukip peaked a while back, though the pretence that it hasn’t lingers.” – Suzanne Moore, The Guardian

Terror attack in Tunisia

“Tunisia, the small north African country which lit the first spark of the Arab spring when its popular uprising toppled the dictatorship four years ago, has been plunged into shock after gunmen killed at least 20 people, including at least 17 foreign tourists, in the worst terrorist attack in more than a decade. … The attack began just after midday as gunmen armed with kalashnikovs opened fire in front of the Bardo museum, the country’s largest and a major tourist attraction.” – The Guardian

News in brief

  • Several killed in Gothenburg shooting – The Guardian
  • Greece defies EU with handouts for poor – The Times (£)
  • White House criticises Netanyahu’s “divisive rhetoric” – Financial Times
  • US Federal Reserve frees its hand to raise rates – Financial Times
  • Barbara Bush endorses her son Jeb for the Presidency – Daily Mail
  • Prince Charles rails against the dumping of plastic in the sea – Daily Mail
  • Could the Royal baby clash with the election? – Daily Telegraph
  • BBC silent on who compared Jeremy Clarkson to Jimmy Savile – Daily Telegraph
  • Plot of Terry Pratchett’s final Discworld novel revealed – The Independent

And finally 1) Voters hate hard-working families

Survey“Voters loathe politician’s clichés – with ‘hard-working families’ hated the most, a survey has revealed. … Red Ed’s favourite line ‘let me be clear’ came in second place with another Labour fallback ‘failed economic plan’ hitting fifth, in a warning to Westminster parties that cynical Brits are rejecting their election mantras.” – The Sun (£)

And finally 2) The wrong trousers

“…now things are looking up, perhaps Mr Osborne could afford to pop out and buy a pair of suit trousers that actually reach his shoes. … While he undoubtedly hoped the country would be listening to what he had to say, many seemed more interested in what he was wearing. … In fact, his half-mast turn-ups attracted almost as many comments among Twitter users as some of his Budget measures.” – Daily Mail

  • “Theresa May caused a stir by flashing her cleavage during the Budget.” – The Sun (£)