Wednesday’s Budget should have been a chance for the government to shape a better future for Britain.
Labour wanted to see help right now for families facing a cost of living crisis – a hard winter with soaring heating bills, plus rising prices in the shops and at the petrol pump.
We wanted a clear plan for growing Britain’s economy and – like the plan to buy, make and sell more in Britain that Labour set out in the summer. We wanted to see a plan to build a high wage, high skill economy, with better rights at work and better pay for all.
We wanted a proper reform of business rates, which are outdated and unfair. We wanted a Budget for all our futures, that set out how we will deal with the challenges of climate change and create the clean jobs of the future.
And we wanted the Chancellor to get out of the habit of raiding working people’s pockets when he needs to raise money, with a fairer tax system based on the simple principle that those with the broadest shoulders should be making a greater contribution.
Sadly, that’s not what we got. The Chancellor’s speech had plenty of eye-catching announcements, but it soon became clear that much of this was just more of the smoke and mirrors we’ve come to expect from the Conservatives. As the boss of respected think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies made clear on Wednesday, what Britain faces is many years of real incomes barely growing, with high inflation, rising taxes, and poor growth keeping. Living standards look set to be virtually stagnant for another five years. Business organisation the CBI was similarly unimpressed. Despite COP26 starting in just days, the Chancellor oddly chose to spend more time talking about alcohol than climate change.
And Rishi Sunak also has a nasty habit of seeming to give with one hand, while he takes more away with the other. You’d not have learnt from his speech that taxation is at the highest level for seventy years, and after eleven years in power, government claims of rising investment ring pretty hollow for public services like our schools. A bit more now is doing no more than belatedly mending the damage the Conservatives did themselves.
It was all a missed opportunity – another missed chance to put Britain on the road to a better, fairer, more prosperous, and brighter future.