Monday, November 24, 2008

Election Budget From Santa's Little Helper

Santa's little helper is set to deliver a crucial pre-election Budget as Brown's chancellor unveils an election manifesto in the battle for the economic high ground. The centrepiece, a widely-leaked silly little VAT sop to woo voters and tax rises later for high earners, will do nothing to help the economy, as the country plunges deeper into debt and recession.

Darling's pre-leaked, pre-election, pre-budget report has little to do with economics and everything to do with posturing politics. 

As Bruce Anderson observes in today's Independent - Brown is not after economic recovery, he's after votes

Designed to capture headlines, it is probably the government's last big shot before a snap election in Spring 2009 or later.

The Orange Party is in no doubt that further interest rate cuts are vital and, coupled with affordable tax cuts and tax breaks, is the only way out of this mess of the government's making. 

But that should never come from a foolish and misguided idea of borrowing more. The boom years were created on the back of debt in the public purse and private pocket. To continue is a false, foolish economy. 

Today Darling has some explaining to do. Why is next year's spending and income gap around £100 billion? Why is there no pot of gold left in the kitty? Why do the IOUs pile up? Why has the government squandered billions? Where's the drive on government waste? Whatever happened to prudence?

Yesterday's leaked paltry VAT cut is a sop to woo voters. A few bob off the price in the shops is pointless and will do nothing to help the economy or help people struggling with debt.

Rises in income tax for high earners, which only kick in after the next election, are insignificant. As left-wing Labour MP, John McDonnell, reportedly pointed out it's "hardly a revolution". Nothing is being done about disgusting tax loopholes and tax advantages enjoyed by the very rich.

Clearly the government couldn't afford to cut direct taxes now, so instead it's offering a temporary VAT cut and even that comes with the pain of tax rises later. 

Brown is borrowing billions for a cheap election bribery stunt. We get the gifts and then have to pay for them. Christmas giveaways are not the answer for a country riddled with debt and that's at the root of the current crisis. 

Brown and New Labour were the architects of the impending economic disaster and saddled the country with reckless levels of public debt and state borrowing. 

Pre-election giveaways will be there - fuel allowances, treats for the poor, some relief for small businesses. Today's measures are nothing short of election bribery. A shameless stunt which won't come cheap.

Brown will have to be forced to announce he needs a fresh mandate for his reckless political economic package. The wheels have been set in motion and the decks cleared for an election. 

Today's budget bribery is a general election manifesto, the latest salvo in the phoney war before a mandate and the campaign proper.

Much depends on how Darling's pre-election budget giveaway is received and perceived by voters, the media headlines and how the Tories play this one, using the election slogan: "However Gordon wraps it up, it's still a tax bombshell".

The Orange Party has made repeated calls for a 'Captain Sensible' approach. That could come from the Conservative's Cameron and Osborne, the LibDem economist, Vince Cable or the now castrated voice of the true Labour Left. 

There is no easy way out. Massive government borrowing will only make things worse. But opposing the government's borrowing plans at a time of crisis, leaves opposition Parties wide open to attack.

Brown's track record to date has been anything but honest. In collusion with BBC News, their behaviour at every twist and turn has been shameful. 

Thanks but no thanks to Brown as chancellor and now prime minister, the country is particularly badly placed to cope with the recession. 

The culture of boom and good times riding on the back of debt, runs deep and is difficult to shift. It will be a long uphill struggle to drive home that message from wherever it comes.

In times of crisis, people look to government. But scratch the surface and you get pointless public sector jobs, a misplaced public spending spree and silly Christmas giveaways. All funded by debt which has to be paid off some time later. None address issues of government waste and squandered public spending. 

Honest Joe doesn't always win general elections. But honesty is the best economic and political policy. Being honest with the electorate and offering sober, sensible solutions, however harsh and a clear idea how they will be paid for, which the whole country can get behind, could eventually pay off. 

Brown has been quick to accuse others of playing party politics. Party politics is what today's pre-election bribery Budget is all about.

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