Posts Tagged ‘Allister Heath’

The public’s fear of the future will frame George Osborne’s budget

04/03/2013, 04:10:05 PM

by Jonathan Todd

It is not only Charlie Brooker who thinks the future is broken. Businesses and households do too. This is why businesses are sitting on billions of pounds. They don’t think there is a future worth investing in. This is massively economically significant, but perhaps more politically significant is the resignation of the public to their grim economic fate.

Some of the public are drowning, few are waving, and most are shrugging their shoulders. George Osborne’s biographer, Janan Ganesh, recently noted in the Financial Times: “The regular focus groups that are conducted by Downing Street paint a picture of an electorate that is bleak about the economy, yes, but so bleak that they don’t believe things would much improve under an alternative policy.”

Those that aren’t drowning, waving or shrugging their shoulders, are getting angry, which increasingly means voting for UKIP. Not as a principled stand against the EU but, as Michael Ashcroft’s polling attests, an anguished cry against the established parties. UKIP recoils, as Matthew d’Ancona accurately puts it, not from Europe specifically but from change generally.

UKIP is an emotional spasm against the political class and the inadequate modernity that they represent, as well as an insatiable longing for an unrecoverable past. While a growing minority of the electorate fall for this spasm, most are bleakly indifferent.

Allister Heath on the right would sacrifice short-term deficit reduction for a dramatic cut in corporation tax and Will Straw on the left for increased public investment. There is, though, scant evidence that the public believe that the methods of either the left or the right will make much difference. And the public might have a point.

Given the piles of cash on which businesses currently sit, Heath’s policy may only deepen these piles. Straw is right to see the cuts to public investment as the most economically damaging of those inflicted by Osborne but only rapidly “shovel-ready” projects are likely to make a difference to GDP in the near-term.

While both left and right urge upon Osborne a focus on recovering growth, not short-term deficit reduction, there are reasons to be sceptical about the capacity of the policies of the left and right to secure their shared objective. And sceptical is certainly what the public feel about the ability of politicians to improve things.


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