It’s almost budget day in election year, the time for the Conservatives to dangle a few carrots and warn of a few essential sticks to come. But how different it this year’s budget to the Labour party’s swansong back in 2010?
There are a few key differences and some glaring similarities.
Osborne’s last budget of this parliament is expected to contain a promise to crack down on tax evasion. That a new one? Not really; Labour played the tax crackdown card back in 2010, but back then it wasn’t such a high profile issue. Will it play better this time?
Don’t let the other party drive the car
In 2010 as in 2015, one of the main lines in the budget will be that the ride may be rough, but it’s a lot safer to stay with the current driver behind the wheel. In 2010 that claim was thrown out at the polls, largely because the Conservative narrative that Labour had driven the gravy-train off the rails played better with voters. This time the Tories will try to strike a balance between playing up the improvements in the economy – strong GDP growth and rising wages – and playing down the connotation that the job is done.
It wasn’t in the budget, but with the property market making headlines George Osborne scrapped the existing stamp duty regulations for a new system meaning many home buyers would save money, at least those buying at the lower end of the market. Back in 2010, Alistair Darling cut Stamp Duty too – for first time buyers - and a lot of good it did Labour.
Cutting the deficit
We’ve halved the deficit (as a percentage of GDP) the Tories have shouted, and in 2010 Labour were quick to point out the deficit was £11bn lower than the expected £178bn. The Tories will point out the deficit has fallen as a percentage of GDP, to 5.6 per cent in the 2013 -2014 financial year. Labour will counter that borrowing, at £86.3bn for April to December 2014, was down just 0.1 per cent on the same period last year.
A pint and the overall picture
As always, the argument will likely be that Labour is the party of the many, and the Conservative party the team for the few. Osborne likes to play populist cards that grab headlines, and is expected to try a tested formula again: give the average Joe a break by slashing a whole penny of beer duty. In 2010 Labour went the other way: it potentially alienated rural Somerset by introducing a tax hike on strong cider. Could beer be the deciding factor.