All the talk on social networking sites and on Radio 5 has been about the tax increase on cider. Apparently it has upset a lot of people in the west country, but I shouldn't think that will worry Labour too much given its lack of seats in the cider growing areas.
Although there have been a series of departmental statements about 'efficiency savings' which, of course, have to be achieved, and in any event are not likely to be painless, the real decisions have been postponed until after the election. Should Labour get back, there will be a comprehensive spending review and probably another budget before the year is out. If the Conservatives return, they have promised an emergency budget in 50 days.
Both parties are being very coy about a rise in Value Added Tax. To the annoyance of his colleagues, Alastair Darling has refused to rule it out, but under any scenario, he is unlikely to be Chancellor after the election. George Osborne was evasive when he was questioned on Radio 5 this morning, saying that he didn't have any specific plans, which does not mean that he would not do it.
Osborne was critical of the Government decision to freeze personal tax allowances which was not mentioned in the Budget speech at all, but it is difficult to see what else the Government could do in the circumstances and he made no commitment to reverse the decision.
Labour's strategy in a very political budget was clearly to try and shore up core Labour support with a 'soak the rich' approach, emphasising that 60 per cent of the tax increases would be borne by 5 per cent of the population. Broadly, I would think that the budget is politically neutral as well as fiscally neutral, i.e., it won't shift many votes either way except perhaps a few disgruntled cider drinkers.
I did the budget hour on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire last night and the guy trying to do vox pops at the bus station was getting very little response at all, suggesting a great indifference. People don't like the increases in fuel (the cost seems to go up every time one fills up) and drink, but somehow expect them.
I took part in a panel discussion at Rory Bremner's show at Warwick Arts Centre last night and what came across, not surprisingly, was a great disillusionment with the whole political process. There are no easy answers to that with successive revelations about politicians lining their pockets rather than serving the public interest.