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Osborne the Moderniser

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Osborne the Moderniser

Post  Panda on Mon 17 Mar - 18:10



Is George Osborne the real Conservative moderniser? That's the question posed by this year's Budget, even before it's delivered on Wednesday.

Consider the two big things we know about the Budget already: the Chancellor isn’t budging on Tory demands to lessen the impact of the 40p tax rate, and he wants to build a lot of houses. Both are really parts of the larger debate about the Conservative Party’s strategy and electoral prospects.

Start with tax. A lot of Tories want to cut taxes for people earning £40-something thousand. Mr Osborne doesn’t; he wants to cut taxes for people earning rather less. That’s causing some tension within the party, possibly – if you listen to rumours – at a very high level indeed.

Money is still too tight to mention, but when and if the Tories do have some cash to cut taxes, who should benefit? The official line is that tax cuts should benefit those on “low and middle incomes”, but everyone is studiously vague about what they mean by those terms.

Some people think that vagueness conceals differences between Mr Osborne and Mr Cameron. The whispered suggestion is that Mr Osborne is more persuaded of the need to focus tax cuts on the bottom income bands, while Mr Cameron would rather cut taxes for those a bit higher up. Needless to say, Nos 10 and 11 deny that suggestion violently; the two men march in lock-step at all times, spokesmen insist.

But one person who has worked closely with both whispers insistently that there are indeed differences between the two on where tax cuts should go. And there is evidence of disagreements on a whole host of other issues that could set the tone of the Tories' 2015 election campaign. Read it all here.

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