You’ve got to hand it to the toff from Tatton, he doesn’t lack political courage.
At one stroke George Osborne has knocked the walking stick out of the hands of pensioners and rewarded his millionaire friends with a massive tax cut.
And yet for all the controversy the income tax cut and the age related tax allowance freeze will create, the Chancellor gave a confident performance. The signal was given out that the government’s determination to bring down the deficit was on course and the Coalition was holding together.
The ludicrously leaked budget was all about Tories and Lib Dems showing how much influence they had on the decision making process. Both parties got prizes. The Tories cut the 50p rate, the Lib Dems are now close to their pledge that people earning less than £10,000 should not pay income tax.
Osborne must now pray for growth and that the newly enriched millionaires will not only “stay and pay” but will invest to help the recovery. We must remember the government has only just begun the cuts agenda. There is the prospect of a further £10bn cut in welfare benefits.
The Chancellor ran up the white flag on the 50p rate effectively saying that private sector accountants had outwitted Treasury officials who draft our tax laws. We’ll see how effective the government’s pledge is to clamp down on aggressive tax avoidance.
He must also hope there will not be a big backlash over the “granny tax”. There is an argument that the golden generation born into the welfare state after the war, enjoying full employment and retiring on good company pensions should share the burden with the young suffering from tuition fees, unemployment and the prospect of retiring at 70 on average salary pensions.
The problem for politicians is that the old vote and the young don’t. The scrapping of the age related allowance is going to hit soon-to-retire couples really hard.
Labour still isn’t trusted on the economy but Ed Miliband did well in the House of Commons when he invited Tory MPs to acknowledge they would personally benefit from the income tax cut.
BUDGET IN THE NORTH WEST
The Chancellor’s announcement of investment in the Preston-Blackpool, Manchester-Bradford and Manchester-Sheffield rail lines is welcome. The links between Manchester and South Yorkshire are particularly bad. The full commitment to the vital Northern Hub at Piccadilly Station is still awaited though.
Manchester has done well, getting £150m over five years from the Treasury in return for promised economic growth through tax increment financing. The city is also to be part of the government’s superfast broadband project.
Surprisingly Liverpool wasn’t included, another blow after the city’s failure in its bid for the Green Investment Bank.
VIV BINGHAM OBE
The funeral was held yesterday of one of the finest Liberals the North West has produced.
Although he never made it to parliament, Viv Bingham served the party at every level from fighting hopeless seats to becoming Party President.
A principled man, he was sometimes a thorn in the side of his party leaders particularly on the issue of nuclear weapons. He was a confirmed unilateralist.
But overwhelmingly people responded to his friendship and warm hearted personality.
Over thirty years he fought a range of seats from Heywood and Royton and Hazel Grove to West Derbyshire and Stalybridge and Hyde.
The highlight of his career was his year as President of the Liberal Party 1981-82.
Viv brought all his diplomatic skills to bear in his party’s sometimes difficult relations with the newly formed Social Democratic Party.
The many tributes in recent days are eloquent testament to the passing of a true Liberal.