Some might argue the Budget was a case study in Coalition collaboration – should Labour be worried?
It’s been a case study in Coalition collaboration this week. Nick and Dave divvyed up the Budget announcements in a grown-up way, sharing out the final glorious set of Budget give-aways before the election campaign proper kicks off in April.
It all started at the weekend at the Lib Dems’ spring conference, when Nick announced £1.25 billion for children’s mental health services. Dave was fine to let the Lib Dems lead on that, so long as he and George could break the good news on the price of beer and fuel duty on Budget Day. The more the Conservatives can show they care about pub-goers and ‘white van men’, the better they can defend themselves against UKIP.
In a concise speech smacking of patriotic references (he even cited the Battle of Agincourt!) George Osborne’s rhetoric was an appeal to the Conservative core vote, with unashamed trumpeting of the still United Kingdom. With echoes of John Major’s ‘cricket and warm beer’, the Chancellor’s speech evoked an England of times past, with talk of bolstering the fund for church roofs.
The tweed jacket and wellies brigade were left smiling too by the Chancellor’s acceptance of the National Farmers’ Union demand for farmers to be allowed to average their incomes for tax purposes over five years, to accommodate year-on-year fluctuations in global markets and weather.
Pork-barrel politics were in abundance. Coalition MPs in the South West can now shout about £7bn of investment in the region’s transport infrastructure. The Conservative MPs in Blackpool and Plymouth will be pleased with their new Enterprise Zones. Lib Dem Julian Huppert can boast of Cambridge being able to keep 100% of any additional growth in local business rates.
In the chamber of the House of Commons it certainly looked as though Labour were the common enemy, and the heady days of the rose garden might be repeated if May 7th produces another hung parliament.