George Freeman

Budget 2014: a torpedo Budget which will split the Shadow Cabinet

Last week’s budget has transformed the political landscape. The welfare cap, new savings and pensions freedoms and ‘NISA’s, have all been much commented on. So too other micro measures, like the very welcome continued investment in science and innovation for the innovation economy, and support for exports.

But I think the events of Wednesday went far beyond entrenching the defining key fiscal reforms of ‘Osbornomics’. It laid down the dividing lines on which we will fight, and can win, the next election. And as we saw in the Chamber on Budget day it has brilliantly exposed the growing tensions between Ed Balls and Milliband, who couldn’t agree how to respond. This is a slow-fuse torpedo Budget which has holed Labour amidships. You can already hear the cracking as their ship founders.

With Election Day now less than 14 months away, after the phoney war of the last two years, the Budget marked the real beginning of Election 2015 hostilities. Chancellor Osborne unleashed his pre-D Day economic barrage from the Treasury artillery on Wednesday. And – to the embarrassment of all watching on – Her Majesty’s Opposition seemed to have turned up armed with little more than a water pistol.

With just over a year until the public has to decide whose finger it wants on the nuclear button, the choice is becoming brutally clear. On Wednesday, George Osborne had the guts to tell the public the truth about the scale of the car crash in the public finances under Labour. He was candid in saying that we don’t currently export enough, manufacture enough or build enough. He didn’t flinch in addressing the long-term structural faults that have bedevilled our economy for a generation, namely spending too much and saving too little.

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