England’s Conservative party…..responsible for much garbage
Businesses closing down
33,000 Nurses leaving NHS last year
Fall in the Pound
As soon as was decently possible after George Osborne had finished his autumn statement, MPs from both sides of the chamber rushed to their calculators to check how much the changes in stamp duty might affect the price of their houses. While the chancellor had claimed that 98% of homeowners would benefit from his changes, the percentage sitting in the House of Commons would be a great deal smaller. MPs might be for the people, but they are not always of the people.
Several members of the Labour front bench winced when the chancellor let slip his surprise package. It was bad enough to be blindsided by a Conservative version of the mansion tax; to find they were personally out of pocket was insult to injury.
The chancellor has been more successful at trimming his own physique than the country’s deficit and he had begun his statement an hour previously as if his mission was both to numb the opposition with numbers and then bore them with announcements he had already leaked. In his shrill monotone, he got to work. “Long term economic plan … 2.7% … OBR … We stay the course … 3.8% … ONS … Northern powerhouse … £4.6bn … WTF …” All the familiar tropes of this arch political hypnotist were on display and one by one heads lolled in the chamber. Even Osborne’s mother and wife, sitting in the gallery, looked as if they were having trouble staying awake.
There was a stirring when Osborne spoke of “new international statistical standards” which remarkably turned out to prove that the country had never been in recession on his watch, and that it was doing far, far better than anyone – including he, though he omitted that bit – could possibly have imagined. OK, so the deficit hadn’t fallen by as much as he had hoped, but it was definitely going to fall much quicker soon, so he now proposed to give away some of the money he would save later to make sure the Tories won the election, because only they could be trusted with the economy.
All this seemed to make perfect sense to the Conservatives – one could only guess what the Lib Dems thought about it as Nick Clegg had taken himself off to Penzance for the day – and the government benches began to perk up a bit. Across the dispatch box from Osborne, Ed Balls hastily started scribbling notes, a look of anxiety on his face. The chancellor’s statement wasn’t going quite to the script he had expected and he had no idea if Osborne’s figures had been plucked from thin air or bore some tangential relationship with the truth. All he knew for certain was that somebody’s figures were wrong and he didn’t know whose.
Sensing he had an advantage, Osborne then decided to make up policy to fit in with his gags. Miliband spoke like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit, he said. Tax breaks for animators. Boom-boom! No signs of life on the Labour front bench. Funding for space scientists. Boom-boom. He was so pleased with himself, he even risked accusing Labour of sneering at ordinary people – the height of cheek from someone stuck with a perma-sneer.
Ed Miliband took the abuse with surprisingly good grace, even laughing at the Wallace reference. Perhaps he has accepted life is never going to be fair. He had just given his best performance for a year at prime minister’s questions, wrong-footing David Cameron so decisively with each of his broken promises that the prime minister inadvertently invented the new word of maso-sadism to describe his turmoil: and yet the Labour leader knew it would all be eclipsed by what the chancellor said.
Still at least, he didn’t have to suffer the maso-sadism of responding to Osborne. That pleasure fell to Balls, who wittered on about not very much until someone passed him a note saying that at least one of the chancellor’s numbers was definitely wrong. By then, though, everyone had left to calculate the stamp duty on their homes.