George Osborne’s first Budget was a curiously low-key occasion. His delivery was rather flat, almost expressionless, with no attempt at humour or drama. Nor was there much animation from the Prime Minister, although he must know that his future rests on the Chancellor’s judgment.I have yet to properly examine the details. I expect the budget will be disappointing, but unsurprisingly so. There is no justification for tax rises while the state remains so horribly bloated. On the contrary, what we really need are tax cuts to revitalise the real economy.
Mr Clegg adopted a grim, mouth-clenched expression and seemed determined to avoid eye contact, especially with those on the Labour benches.
There was not much in the Budget to bring cries of joy or waving of order papers, but that was hardly surprising given the inheritance from the NuLab government. The result was workmanlike rather than inspiring. It is galling for those of us who derided the Osborne/Cameron fantasies of “sharing the growth” of the economy between the bloated public sector and the malnourished wealth-producing sector that it has taken the Tory leadership so long to realise that the public sector was, is and looks likely to be too big regardless of economic growth for years to come.
That apart, and especially considering the need to restrain the Lib Dem tail from wagging the Tory dog, it was as good a budget overall as anyone could sensibly expect.
Of course, having seen the hostility with which the BBC team grilled Danny Alexander this afternoon, it is clear that even this tame first step was politically difficult. The statist cancer runs deep, and even if we allow ourselves to believe that the Coalition might fight it, we cannot expect them to eradicate it overnight.