David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street ahead of the Budget. Photograph: Getty Images.
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We need a Budget for honesty

Osborne should change the words we use to describe our taxes: National Insurance is Earnings Tax and Jobs Tax.

In 1946, George Orwell published his famous essay "Politics and the English Language". In it, he argued that politicians fall back on tired phrases and waffle to mask their real meaning; that "when there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink".

This has not changed. In fact, it has become considerably worse. Orwell would be astounded at the way today’s political elite use language to gloss over reality; casually throwing meaningless phrases around like confetti. Ready-made phrases are the norm, and nowhere does language ‘perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself’ more than in debates over public spending.

Around Budget time we hear a lot about "fiscal overhang", "deficits", "consolidation" and, everyone’s big favourite, "quantitative easing" – even many politicians don’t fully grasp how this one works. These words tend to freeze people out of the public debate about how their tax money is spent. If you can’t understand something, you can’t decide whether it’s a good thing or not.

These euphemisms can also allow governments to get away with spending unsustainably, usually on big voter hand-outs, without justifying the consequences of their actions. That’s because it’s much easy to say you’re going to "run a higher deficit" than "spend another £10bn a year more than the government receives, on top of the £100bn it’s already overspending". And it’s a lot easier to say "we’re investing another £1bn in our future", rather than "we’re taking another £1bn from taxpayers’ money to spend on something that may or may not make living standards better in the future".

Last chance to make a clear statement

Next week’s Budget is the last chance to make big changes before the general election. And it’s the last chance we have to make ourselves crystal clear and set the terms of the economic debate for the next few decades. The Conservative-led coalition has shown that it is capable of dealing with our country’s short and medium-term fiscal problems by getting the deficit under control. As a result, Britain is now one of the fastest-growing countries in the OECD. 

While I am hopeful that our long-term economic plan and referendum commitment can reunite the Conservative family behind us, the dangers of a Labour government cannot be understated, given the electoral calculus and Labour’s failure to learn that overspending is what brought this country to its knees. So I’d like us to use this opportunity to do something radical that will change the political landscape. I want us to change the words we use to describe our taxes. 

National Insurance is Earnings Tax and Jobs Tax  

National Insurance is not an insurance scheme. It’s a tax. First, the rate you pay is determined by what you earn and not some risk premium. Secondly, the vast majority of National Insurance is used to pay non-contributory welfare benefits. Thirdly, the introduction of the single flat-rate pension and Universal Credit will cut the last frayed links between National Insurance and contributions. It will become what it already is: a second Income Tax.  National Insurance is split into two parts: Employers’ and Employees’ National Insurance. Employers’ National Insurance is a tax on jobs and workers, plain and simple.

Because Employers’ National Insurance doesn’t often appear on people’s wage slips, many are simply unaware that their boss has to pay another 13.8 per cent to the government on top of their salary every year. This means hiring a new member of staff at £24,500 costs another £2,000 in taxes to the government – every year. If employers didn’t have to pay this dangerous tax on jobs, they could hire more people – and possibly at a higher wage too.

This year the Chancellor has an opportunity to restore some honesty to the debate – and our tax system. He has the opportunity to break from the tired phrases and jargon and start calling these insidious taxes by their proper names.

A Conservative colleague, Ben Gummer MP, has proposed renaming employees’ National Insurance: the Earnings Tax. I’d go one step further and call the employers’ element: the Jobs Tax. That would certainly be refreshing and more transparent.

Let’s make it clear what we’re talking about

A simple change of language from National Insurance to Earnings Tax and Jobs Tax would not only be the honest way forward but it would also ensure that everyone clearly understands when any changes to these taxes are made in the future. 

If next year, a party tries to increase these taxes, it would be clear what they were aiming to do: take more of people’s money and destroy more of people’s jobs. With this kind of clarity, it would be a lot harder for any future government to fudge its words. Anytime a Labour government tried to hike the Jobs Tax, the public would start to ask serious questions.

Before last year’s Budget I called for a number of changes to boost growth. Since then, the Chancellor has slashed National Insurance for small businesses and scrapped it for young people. These are fantastic steps but, this time around, the Chancellor has an opportunity to make a firm footprint on the history of our tax system. Renaming National Insurance, if not now then at least before the next election, would change the debate for the better for decades to come.

Adam Afriyie is the Conservative MP for Windsor

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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