George Osborne delivered the emergency budget with confidence and clarity. He tackled the deficit head on and was clear and open about his plans.
Business on the whole will be pleased that Britain now has a decisive plan to reduce the deficit, stabilise the economy and encourage small and medium sized businesses. Industry will broadly welcome the measures that were taken to reduce tax rates. The move on CGT was expected as was the increase in VAT.
This in turn should lead to a continuation of low interest rates. Low interest rates will give business the confidence to invest in their future and recruit more staff as the economy grows. We need a private sector driven recovery. The private sector is the only part of the economy that generates the wealth – and the tax stream – to pay for what we want delivered in the public sector.
The budget was aimed unequivocally at spurring a private sector led recovery and that is absolutely the right emphasis.
The Chancellor has tried to soften the impact on those on lower or no incomes while still being very honest that everyone will feel the impact of his measures.
Today we learned that cuts in spending over the course of the Parliament for government departments that are not protected will be an eye-watering 25%. These cuts will not be achieved without real and actual cuts in services and benefits.
The real pain is yet to come. Tackling the sustainability of public sector pensions and welfare reform are two well-flagged and deeply problematic areas that are now set to be addressed. But the spending round that will run between now and 20 October will be fiercely fought across Whitehall in private, and no doubt at times in public. The coalition government will be placed under severe and real stress as it works through where the axe will fall. Today has been part of the process – but there is much more still to come.
But whatever you think of the emergency budget, Labour’s response has brought into sharp relief the problem a newly defeated opposition has in fashioning a coherent response. On his blog Alistair Campbell encouraged the leadership candidates to ‘pile in, and do so with real impact. Not just as a way of highlighting the risk Osborne and Co. pose, but as a way of showing party and country what they have by way of argument, strategy and fight.’
This was a misjudgement. Today was about Britain, not the Labour party or those who seek to lead it. Agree with the budget or don’t agree with it, the event requires a mature and thoughtful response. The person to provide that for Labour until the party has a new leader is Alastair Darling. The Labour Party would do well to listen to what he is saying, and how he is saying it.