The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 19 March 2015

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In a Budget intended to have ‘no gimmicks, no giveaways’, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, offered pensioners with annuities the chance to cash them in and blow the lot. Borrowing in the coming year would be a fraction of a billion less than feared and the annual deficit was to be eliminated by 2019. The income tax personal allowance was raised. Business rates were to be reviewed. Duty on beer, cider and spirits came down a touch, but not on wine. A higher bank levy was predicted to raise £900 million. North Sea oil and gas producers were offered tax reductions. About 15 million people would have to update their tax returns online through the year. The minimum wage would rise in October by 20p an hour to £6.70, with less for younger workers. Voters were told that if they elected a Conservative government, death duties would be reduced. Unemployment fell to 1.86 million. A new pound coin is to be minted, 12-sided like the old threepenny bit, but without the blooming thrift that it depicted.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour party, rejected the idea of a coalition with the Scottish National Party, which had already said it didn’t want a coalition with Labour, but would contemplate a supply and confidence arrangement. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, agreed to a television debate with six other party representatives. Three young men from north-west London, aged 17, 17 and 19, were stopped by Turkey from travelling to Syria and sent back to Britain after their parents alerted police. Mr Cameron ordered the postponement of a report on the Muslim Brotherhood, expected to recommend that it should not be proscribed as a terrorist organisation, though it is banned by Saudi Arabia.

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