The New Statesman's cost neutral rabbit.
Show Hide image

Budget 2015: What to expect from George Osborne's last budget of the coalition

George Osborne will say the UK faces a "critical choice" at the election when he delivers his Budget today – but what do we know so far?

Depending on the election result in May, today could be Osborne's final Budget. Unsurprisingly, Twitter is clear of any patronising adverts highlighting the changes to beer and bingo taxes - the things working people enjoy, of course. But the newspapers this morning are swelling with leaks, announcements and juicy rumours. Here's a round up, for anyone (including us) too excited to wait:

Inheritance tax

In plans leaked to the Guardian, Osborne has drawn up blueprints that would allow parents to pass a main property worth up to £1m to their children without paying inheritance tax. This would reduce the inheritance tax bill on properties worth up to £2m by £140,000 with the Treasury concluding that the scheme would “most likely benefit high income and wealthier households.” Quelle surprise.

Power-generating lagoon

Helen Lewis spotted the first shameless reannouncement of today’s Budget: the world’s largest power-generating lagoon, in South Wales. Negotiations will be started on funding a £1bn initiative to produce electricity from turbines in Swansea Bay.

Personal Tax Allowance

Raising the personal allowance to £11,000 – giving 27m people a £200 tax cut. But as Tim Wigmore has reported, raising the tax allowance has already reached its limits for helping the poorest families. Once the personal allowance had reached £10,500, three million people had been taken out of income tax altogether.

Death of the tax return

The Telegraph has splashed this morning on the “death of the annual tax return”. It is expected that Osborne will use the Budget to announce a cut in unnecessary HMRC “red tape” Tax returns, the paper reports, “have been long considered an unnecessary burden for millions of people”.

A new shiny coin

This “long-term economic plan” is certainly under way: a new shiny 12-sided (!) pound coin will be unveiled. Featuring the “four symbols” of the UK: a rose, leek, thistle and shamrock. Sorry? The Chancellor announced the plans at the Budget in 2014 to replace the £1 coin because it has been increasingly vulnerable to counterfeit.
 

Photo: Twitter

Postgraduate Loans

Loans of up to £25,000 for PhD students from disadvantaged backgrounds in an attempt to convince more people to take up postgraduate research.

Savings Tax

The Independent believe they’ve found the biggest “rabbit” in today’s Budget: they say the Chancellor will abolish tax on income from savings for millions in a move to woo pensioners and “hard-working” people. In last year's Budget, Osborne announced that that 10 per cent tax on saving for people on low incomes will be abolished next month. This change will help an estimated 1.5m savers, many of them pensioners, according to the Indy.

Welfare

According to reports in the Daily Mail, the Chancellor will be announcing a welfare cap as he sets out more than £12bn in benefit cuts... and guess who will be affected the most? Read on... 

Young people

At the bottom of the list for a reason. No “goodies” or happy “rabbits” for the under-25s it seems. In fact, they are set to lose the right to housing and unemployment benefits if they refuse offers of work, training or education. It seems the controversial Tory grandee, Lord Tebbitt, whose ambition it is to make young unemployed people pull up ragwort for benefits, might be gleeful at the Budget today. 

Ashley Cowburn writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2014. He tweets @ashcowburn

 

 

Getty
Show Hide image

Leader: Trump and an age of disorder

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions.

The US presidency has not always been held by men of distinction and honour, but Donald Trump is by some distance its least qualified occupant. The leader of the world’s sole superpower has no record of political or military service and is ignorant of foreign affairs. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly showed himself to be a racist, a misogynist, a braggart and a narcissist.

The naive hope that Mr Trump’s victory would herald a great moderation was dispelled by his conduct during the transition. He compared his country’s intelligence services to those of Nazi Germany and repeatedly denied Russian interference in the election. He derided Nato as “obsolete” and predicted the demise of the European Union. He reaffirmed his commitment to dismantling Obamacare and to overturning Roe v Wade. He doled out jobs to white nationalists, protectionists and family members. He denounced US citizens for demonstrating against him. Asked whether he regretted any part of his vulgar campaign, he replied: “No, I won.”

Of all his predilections, Mr Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most troubling. When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that Russia was the “number one geopolitical foe” of the US, he was mocked by Barack Obama. Yet his remark proved prescient. Rather than regarding Mr Putin as a foe, however, Mr Trump fetes him as a friend. The Russian president aims to use the US president’s goodwill to secure the removal of American sanctions, recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and respect for the murderous reign of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He has a worryingly high chance of success.

Whether or not Mr Trump has personal motives for his fealty (as a lurid security dossier alleges), he and Mr Putin share a political outlook. Both men desire a world in which “strongmen” are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of external rebuke. Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence provides Mr Putin with every incentive to pursue his expansionist desires. The historic achievement of peace and stability in eastern Europe is in danger.

As he seeks reconciliation with Russia, Mr Trump is simultaneously pursuing conflict with China. He broke with precedent by speaking on the telephone with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and used Twitter to berate the Chinese government. Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s secretary of state nominee, has threatened an American blockade of the South China Sea islands.

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions. The US constitution, with its separation of powers, was designed to restrain autocrats such as the new president. Yet, in addition to the White House, the Republicans also control Congress and two-thirds of governorships and state houses. Mr Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment will ensure a conservative judicial majority. The decline of established print titles and the growth of “fake news” weaken another source of accountability.

In these circumstances, there is a heightened responsibility on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, Mr Trump. Angela Merkel’s warning that co-operation was conditional on his respect for liberal and democratic values was a model of the former. Michael Gove’s obsequious interview with Mr Trump was a dismal example of the latter.

Theresa May has rightly rebuked the president for his treatment of women and has toughened Britain’s stance against Russian revanchism. Yet, although the UK must maintain working relations with the US, she should not allow the prospect of a future trade deal to skew her attitude towards Mr Trump. Any agreement is years away and the president’s protectionist proclivities could yet thwart British hopes of a beneficial outcome.

The diplomatic and political conventions embodied by the “special relationship” have endured for more than seven decades. However, Mr Trump’s election may necessitate their demise. It was the belief that the UK must stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US that led Tony Blair into the ruinous Iraq War. In this new age of disorder, Western leaders must avoid being willing accomplices to Mr Trump’s agenda. Intense scepticism, rather than sycophancy, should define their response.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era