Don’t get fooled again – my article in today’s Daily Mirror

In today’s Budget George Osborne will boast that he’s a man with a plan.

He’s right – he’s got a political plan to cut back our public services for good and to cut deep now in the hope he can bribe people with tax cuts just before the next election. He tries to blame all his decisions on Labour – as he will today. And when that fails he hides behind the Lib Dems.

But this isn’t an economic plan. And each day it’s getting clearer that it’s not working. Just look at what’s happened since he made a political choice to cut further and faster than any other major country in the world.

A year ago – under Labour – unemployment was falling, inflation was lower and the economy was growing strongly.

But yesterday we saw inflation rise again – made worse by the Tory VAT rise which has pushed up prices. The number of people out of work is now at a 17 year high. And the economy has ground to a halt, but all the Tories can do is blame the wrong kind of snow.

So when George Osborne boasts that he ‘rescued’ our economy and he’s going to carry on regardless, it just shows how totally out of touch he is with what’s going on in the real world.

He reminds me of a finance minister addressing his cabinet colleagues during a grave economic crisis and saying ‘colleagues, we have come to the edge of the abyss and now is the time for a bold step forward’.

David Cameron and the Tories said they’d changed. But look around you and it’s back to the future.

They said they’d be the most family friendly government in the world. But now they’re ripping up rights for parents to juggle work and family life. And they’re giving the banks a tax cut this year, while clobbering families with children hardest.

They told us the NHS would be safe in their hands. But they’re cutting funding for the health service in real terms and waiting times are going up again.

So I hope people don’t get fooled again. Here’s what to look out for in the Budget today.

I think George Osborne will cancel the annual fuel duty rise in April – as Labour did when world oil prices were going up. But will he listen to Labour and reverse the Tory VAT rise on petrol which has added £1.35 to the cost of filing up a 50 litre tank?

He’ll claim to help more young people get work placements. But with nearly one million young people now out of work will this be enough? And will he listen to Labour and repeat the bank bonus tax this year to create 100,000 jobs, build 25,000 affordable homes and rescue construction apprenticeships?

He’ll say he’s raising the amount you can earn before you pay income tax. But will that be worth more than the £450 he’s taking from families in extra VAT alone, let alone the cuts to tax credits and child benefit? Or will he actually give a little with one hand but take much more back with the other?

He’ll call it a Budget for growth. But will the independent budget watchdog disagree and say the economy will grow more slowly?

There need to be tough decisions to get the deficit down. But you can’t get the deficit down if the economy doesn’t grow strongly this year and there are fewer people in work making a contribution. So it should have been no surprise to see figures yesterday showing that government borrowing was actually higher last month than a year ago.

George Osborne increasingly reminds me of a new football manager, brought in after a bad defeat, who changes the tactics, drops the centre forward and hopes for the best. In the early weeks when the results get worse, he can blame the problems he inherits from his predecessor. But it is when the home crowd starts singing ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ that the truth sinks in.

The reality is dawning – George Osborne doesn’t know what he’s doing. And it’s time he put the economics before the party politics. I won’t be holding my breath this afternoon. But for the sake of our country he really needs a plan B that puts jobs and growth first – before it’s too late.

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Posted March 23rd, 2011 by Ed

One Response to “Don’t get fooled again – my article in today’s Daily Mirror”

  1. Greg Donald says:

    Ed,

    Nobody is listening, you had your chance for 13 long years and look at the state we are in, would anybody in their right mind listen to Labour mp on the state of the economy.
    Labours idea of growth is to borrow some more money and create a few more public sector non-jobs !!!!

    Regards
    (an ex Labour voter)

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