Last week’s Budget was a game changer politically and economically too.
With the Labour Party in disarray and seemingly unable to take on board the reasons for and consequences of a heavy defeat and the Liberal Democrats a spent force, George Osborne took the opportunity to set out a clear vision of the country’s future – moving to a high wage, low tax and low welfare economy.
Without the drag anchor of the Lib Dems, blocking a number of popular initiatives, he was able to focus on key long term priorities like infrastructure and welfare reform but surprisingly, his prospectus was very much rooted in the mainstream centre ground, where after all, most voters place themselves and where General Elections are won (or lost).
There were of course more authentically Conservative plans to strengthen the UK’s defences, cut business taxes and put more money in people’s pockets with a rise in the 40p tax threshold and the lower rate threshold hiked to £11,000, helping lower paid workers but there was also more cash for our NHS, a bigger focus on tackling tax avoidance, 3 million more apprenticeships, a new Roads Fund and a freezing of fuel duty will all be very welcome in Peterborough.
It’s right that as a country we need to carry on paying down the deficit and living within our means, especially now the economy and jobs are growing at such a pace and part of that policy, is reducing an unaffordable welfare bill, which is why we can’t ignore the fact that Gordon Brown’s deliberate and partisan policy of state dependency via tax credits, saw the bill soar from £1 billion to £30 billion in 10 years - and so we have to reduce this level of spending which is unsustainable. Equally, it can never be appropriate for people to make a rational choice to live on benefits and not work – so the benefits cap is right and will get more people working.
As I have always said, you cannot expect people to come off welfare to subsist on poverty wages – why would they? - so I was particularly delighted that my lobbying for three years or more for a national Living Wage has paid off.
I, like Iain Duncan Smith, jumped for joy.
People in our area on minimum wage will see their incomes boosted by a third over this Parliament.
Good economics, good politics, good business, morally right and good for my constituency and our country.
Of course I have a lot more lobbying to do for local initiatives – for an enterprise zone and university, improved help for our schools and upgraded local infrastructure but Mr Osborne’s Budget is a strong start.