150319 Budget montageWhat did the “Tory press” make of the Budget?

  • “One by one, George Osborne shoots Labour’s foxes”, the Daily Telegraph, ticking off the lower planned surplus, the rise in household incomes per head, and the hitting of his original debt target.  It wants a smaller state than the Coalition Chancellor is planning, and doesn’t like the restriction on the size of lifetime pension pots, but views the Budget overall as “a masterclass of political positioning,” summing up the Chancellor as “one of the most politically astute men ever to occupy the Treasury”.
  • Is the same leader writer moonlighting at the Daily Mail?  Its editorial describes Osborne’s effort as the “Budget that makes Labour irrelevant”, and it ticks off much the same list of shot – or rather incinerated – foxes: that rise in household incomes, the richest paying a bigger share of income tax, a more even distribution of wealth, a more narrow pay gap between the sexes, and the Labour leadership’s discredited predictions of doom over growth and jobs.  “On yesterday’s showing,” it concludes, “can there be any serious doubt about which party is better fit to steer the ship?”
  • The Daily Express concentrates on the Budget’s measures for older voters.  “Making the first £1,000 of savings interest free of tax for basic rate taxpayers could almost be considered a gimmick,” it judges, since “the cash ISA does the same thing”.  It welcomes the Help to Buy ISA, is sceptical about whether the longer-term pledges to lift the personal allowance and 40p band will be met, and – like the Telegraph and this site – doesn’t care for the pension pot restriction. It concludes: “Mr Osborne certainly did enough yesterday to convince voters that they are likely to get more treats from him than they will get from Mr Balls.”
  • I will pass the Sun‘s leader by in order, instead, to introduce its new political site – SunNation – to any of this site’s readers who may have missed it.  It includes an Osborne Budget Better-Off-O-Meter, an article on Why Digital Tax forms will drive you mad, a feature called Top of the Political Photoshop Pops (illustrated by a photo of Ann Widdecombe with what appear to be spray cans sprouting from her nipples), another called Selfies in the Sun – starring, inevitably, Karen Danczuk’s cleavage – and a commendable piece giving nine reasons why Lindsay Hoyle “is a political god”.  It omits the tenth: he isn’t John Bercow.

Elsewhere, the Guardian has a go at “the Chancer Chancellor”, but says that Labour bears a “heavy responsibility” for letting him get away with it: “Ed Balls often seemed more interested in winning the day-to-day argument over an emergency stimulus than in winning a post-emergency election”. The Daily Mirror will have said something somewhere, but I really can’t be bothered to find out what it is.

The Independent says that it was “a rather cautious and prudent Budget”. (Or “a gentler path out of austerity”, as the Financial Times puts it.)  The Times (£) zooms on the same point as ConservativeHome : that the Chancellor’s decision not to make a dash for tax cuts was “a brave strategy considering the Conservatives’ failure so far to pull ahead in polls, but the right one”.

Our verdict? The Chancellor’s least exciting Budget – and none the worse for it.