Criticism following yesterday’s ground-breaking Budget had to happen. There must be times when it’s fun to be in Opposition. Budgets are usually met with barracking from the backbenches, catcalling and order papers waved aloft in indignation. In really bad times, actual open guffawing (sorry Gordon).
On Wednesday, we saw a different situation unfold. A nervy Harman (and this isn’t her first rodeo) did the best she could. After all Opposition is Opposition and even if the Chancellor has announced a million pounds and a unicorn per household, you have to be ready to rumble at the despatch box. But then she won’t be Leader much longer, so ‘just get through it and leave it up to the contenders’ thought Harriet. What an opportunity for the leadership candidates to inform the public of their policies. Their vision. Their ideas and suggestions of how to do it better. How they would do it better. After all, they’ve just had a general election campaign to learn what won’t work. Best leave it up to the Famous Four, the Three Musketeers (Jeremy’s d’Artagnan) to tear it apart.
Two days later, they’ve all piped up (except d’Artagnan sadly) and here’s the maths: (Clue: it’s policy-light)
Let’s kick off with Mrs Balls. She roundly opposes tax credit savings, the public sector pay cap and changes to student maintenance grants.
Yvette’s shopping list: £13 billion
Andy Burnham is next. He vehemently opposes the changes to student maintenance grants, change to housing benefit, tax credit savings and the public sector pay cap.
Andy’s shopping list: £13.04 billion
Liz Kendall (you can probably guess what’s coming). Liz opposes the freeze to working age benefits and changes to student maintenance grants.
Liz’s shopping list: £6.5 billion.
But, there’s no money to pay at the till. Not a whiff of a suggested saving here or a cut there. Higher taxes and more borrowing = same old Labour. With mutiny in the ranks in the shape of Lord Digby Jones and Frank Field who have both publicly supported the Budget - and former Chancellor Alistair Darling helpfully stating that Labour are in ‘disarray’ and have no ‘credible economic plan’. There’s only one thing for it.
Chrissie Boyle is Campaigns Director for Conservative Way Forward
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