The day finally arrived when Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced his much-anticipated Autumn Budget to the House of Commons. The pundits had been wondering through acres of column-inches how he was going to deal with the huge set-back he had suffered following the House of Lords’ rejection of his plans to savagely cut Family Tax credits, forcing Osborne to make a humiliating climb-down.
Kaya had produced a masterpiece for the occasion, titled “The Birth of Gideon”, after Michelangelo’s famous “Birth of Adam”, but portraying the lame-duck Chancellor lounging nonchalantly beside his red Budget Box which contains an axe and a Tax Credits policy paper, reaching out to his idol Margaret Thatcher, who floats on a black cloud, clutching a small tombstone engraved with the epitaph “Poll tax”. For weeks people had been suggesting that cutting Tax Credits for the poorest working families would be Osborne’s cathartic Poll Tax event, wrecking his prospects of taking over from Cameron when he is finally crow-barred out of number 10 to spend more time with his money.
In the end Osborne, the shady tactician, announced that he had “listened carefully to people’s concerns” and that he was scrapping Tax Credit cuts all together, and that he’d also just found £25bn down the back of his sofa because he’s such a brilliant Chancellor so that would pay for it.
The wandering herds of ecstatic Tory back benchers roared and bellowed with approval and delight at all this fantastic validation of all their cruel austerity policies; the sun was going to shine forever on the Conservative Party and the right-wing press had difficulty keeping it in their trousers.
But… after all the crowing and preening had died down and more serious analysts began to unpick Osborne’s statement, it became obvious that once again Osborne had delivered another hand-cart of smoke and mirrors: Tax credits would be completely phased out in two years time anyway because the dreaded, fault-ridden Universal Credit scheme would take over and the working poor would be properly punished then, rather than now, and that mysterious £25bn windfall was only a theoretical tax receipt projection based on a lot of wishful thinking, presuming a growing economy when in fact the economy seems to be slowing down again and our trade deficit is the worst it’s been in many years. All is not quite as rosy as it seems, and now it looks like we’re going to have to pay for another eye-wateringly expensive war in the Middle East, the Tories have agreed to renew Trident for a crippling £176bn, and the emaciated, starved NHS may not make it through the Winter…