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How the 2016 Budget Will Help George Osborne Become Prime Minister

The King of Taxpayers came up trumps once again.

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In the 1990s, The Budget was a pretty sober affair. It was Ken Clarke sticking 5p on cigarettes and a couple of points on petrol, or early-years Gordon Brown sticking stoically to the plans to stick 5p on fags he'd inherited from Ken Clarke, revelling in his capacity to bore on about "prudence".

It's only post-millennium, when Gordon's PM ambitions started to really kick in, that the budget as a concept changed. That it became something that required five show-stopping numbers, a rabbit from a hat, a false coda involving "Bohemian Rhapsody" sung by the blue woman from Fifth Element, and the Chancellor doing the Evel Knievel over the green benches by way of exit.


It has become theatre. And theatre is great for hacks. But is having a Chancellor who desperately wants to be PM any good for the administration of a country? Probably not. Like every Osborne budget, this was one full of hat-rabbits and shark-jumps, bungs to special interest groups and crafty politicking towards key constituencies.

Yet, for everything he lobbed at any number of special interest groups, for all the "winners and losers" the papers are splashing on, the key taxpayer who won in this speech was a Mr G Osborne, of 11 Downing Street, London, W1. How exactly? Let's consider the biggest bungs he threw himself.


For instance, taxing sugary drinks at 24p a litre is a moment of left-and-right-unite altruism, right? It's Jamie Oliver giving a V sign to the press. It's the proceeds being spent on half a billion quid's worth of sports equipment for Britain's state schools.


Well, precisely. This is headline-eater-dazzle-dust being thrown in the faces of the British public. Today, the papers are probably full of little else: "Osbo Tangos Our Pop", The Sun will probably say. "Blow to Bingo Wings Tots", The Mail will crow. Meanwhile, the broadsheets will bring out their best hand-wringing luvvies to agonise over the "obesity time-bomb" with only mildly-veiled class-loathing. Why? Because this is the sort of thing that we can all visualise. Picture that fat kid. Go on. Picture his little pork chop hands, his sherbert-dipped lips turning blue as he has his first heart attack aged 11. He's much more *real* than a bunch of dusty figures about debt-to-GDP targets.


Nowadays, everyone talks knowingly of Cameron election guru Lynton Crosby's "dead cat strategy". Which is: if you walk into a room and put a dead cat on the table, no one will be talking about whatever it is they were meant to be talking about. They will be talking about the dead cat. No one, in other words, will be talking about the forecasts that have been revised this year: borrowing up, growth down, targets flunked. And that's what the sugar tax gives to a budget that everyone said would be gloomy yet boring.

One day, George Osborne will have to resort to just putting an actual dead cat in that red box and frisbee-ing it at Corbyn. For now, at least, he still has the fat children nightmare visions of Channel 5 documentaries.


In the past year, the petrol price has dipped massively. Fuel duty already earns more than the entire Transport budget for the government. Time for George to grab a few more pennies out of motorists' unexpected windfall? Nope. Fuel duty is to remain unchanged.


Same way Boris' opposition to the congestion charge extension was crucial in winning him a first term as London Mayor. Car people vote. No one who is called George Osborne can afford to piss these people off, because "lives in suburb, knows how many miles they get per gallon" pretty much defines "Tory voter". And Tory leadership elections no longer mean just MPs voting; the grassroots are getting a shout now too. Ditto: his increase in the 40p tax rate threshold, and his backing-down on proposals to make pensioners pay to withdraw from their pension-pots.



Yet more money to link Leeds to Manchester by rail (HS3) and build an underground tunnel-road between Sheffield and Manchester, whooshing cars along a gleaming corridor, to be dumped in dense plodding inner-city traffic at either end.


Every politician needs a physical piece of legacy they can call their own. Boris had the RouteMaster. Blair had the Dome. When you think 'George Osborne', George would like you to think 'Northern Powerhouse'. And if he is to be seen as a builder-slash-visionary, this needs to start sounding less like a weird, possibly-dirty joke and more like a vital piece of the white heat of his social revolution.


Hey, everyone under 40, it's Christmas! If you put £4,000 a year into your new "Lifetime ISA" the government will match it with a grand every year until you're 50. That's right – a grand does come for free when it's from HM Gov.


Right now, he's known as a steely and canny Chancellor. Much like Gordon was. But really, much like Gord, George's entire long game can be blown out of the water by the British property-owning classes just looking down. Somewhere, George surely realises, someone is going to look out of their window one day and say: "Wait a minute – £450,000 for a house I can piss across? That's ludicrous. Besides, it's 20 times my annual earnings. I couldn't afford it even if I wanted to. I need to get out of here…" And the whole bubble upon which much of his supposed recovery has been predicated will burst in a matter of months. This will be a cataclysm, because houses will suddenly become affordable (and a lot of naive/greedy buyers will spend the rest of their lives paying off assets worth half what they paid for them). Which is fine, actually, because if they thought it was worth that at the time, then that's just what it was worth to them, right?


To stop this Corbynistic nightmare from happening, Osborne knows full well he needs to keep pumping cheap credit into the housing market. He needs to sign more people up to the Ponzi scheme. He needs, in short, an ISA in which the government gives you a thousand pounds for every £4,000 you put in, so that they can ratchet up the cost of that first deposit that crucial extra 25 percent.

Already, he's offering a first-time house with just 5 percent down. How much more blatant can he make this one, feckless millennials? Buy a house. Any house. Buy a scabby nicotine-walled ex-laundrette in Clitheroe. Whatever. Just do whatever it takes to make every house in Britain that tiny bit more expensive by tomorrow, because when this juggernaut goes into reverse, baby you don't wanna know the shit that's going to go down.


The deficit must be eliminated. We need to start taxing more than we spend. And we need to do this in 2019, because that's exactly the moment David Cameron will be clearing his desk and getting ready to chuck the keys to the country to his successor. Who in turn will have about a year to convince the nation's voters that he's a really swell bloke who always pays off his deficits. Thankfully, George Osborne has a plan to eliminate the deficit and turn it into a £10 billion surplus… by precisely 2019. Remarkable timing.


He is Cameron's successor. And if we all just stick with his Long Term Economic Plan, he can be PM. Great work all round, George. On behalf of the people of Britain, we'd like to say how very grateful we are to be of service to your political career.



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