1) The Length of the Speech – When I were a lad, and there was no television pictures from inside the Commons chamber, the budget would still be taking place when i came home from school. Most speeches from memory tended to last between 75 and 90 minutes. Since New Labour came to power, budget speeches tended to be party political and only last about an hour. This trend has continued under Darth Gideon.
2) Hidden Extras – Because the length of the budget speeches tended to be longer, more announcements were made. It might be an untruth, but perceived wisdom states that hidden measures not announced in the budget started under Brown in the June 1997 budget. Osbornes third budget, a quick scan of the small print had yielded a new Corporation tax loophole costing the UK £4 Billion, the cost to HMRC of the 5% cut in the top rate of tax being £560 million (with 14,000 millionaires approximately £44,000 better off under this budget), a raid on the pensions of already retired people (with this measure estimated to cost pensioners between £63 & £291 per year – already dubbed the “Granny Poll Tax”) as well as hints at an estimated cut of £10.5 billion in the Welfare bill. That's without the very private act of euthanasia being visited on Tax Credits.
3) Pet Projects – What Chancellors do talk about is about what they are doing for key interest groups. Brown’s favoured groups were mothers and low paid workers. Osborne’s is quite clearly big business and rich people, which is strange as allowing these groups to hoard more money will only hinder the economy. The cut of the top rate of tax has been long trailed, yet his excuse was that it had to be cut as it wasn’t cost effective. Whether Milliband & Balls make the best use of this open goal remains to be seen.
4) Unravelling the Budget – Because of the propensity of Brown to not announce every measure in his budgets, there was an element of slight unravelling when both he and his shadow toured the television & radio studios the following morning. So it will be the case with Osborne & Balls as more titbits come from an overtly political budget. As I said, whether Balls takes the chance presented to him…
5) The Charm Offensive – Perception is key in Budgets. To counteract any unravelling, supporters of measures in the budget will swamp the broadcast media. Brown had his supporters, as well as the vaunted New Labour spin machine. Osborne it seems has George Sorrell, the head of “the biggest advertising agency in the world” – who moved out of the UK for tax reasons and is moving back to the UK for the same reasons. Osborne also has the Lib Dems, who believe that they have won a watch with the adoption of the raising of the tax floor. Unfortunately for them, it is of the plastic variety given away with penny sweeties.
One more thing that links the two. Whatever measures announced, it’ll still be trebles all round in the City.