Quick fire on the budget for The Record
Don’t be fooled for a second. Don’t be distracted by figures finessed so that welfare is cut by £8 billion over two years instead of the £12 billion expected.
George Osborne is no fool. The Chancellor in his budget just listened to what everyone told him, that £12 billion is nigh impossible to shave in such a short space of time.
Behind the gimmick of rebadging and resetting the living wage, cuts there will be.
Capping wages at a miserly one per cent for public sector workers while setting corporation tax lower than the basic rate of personal tax shows the chancellor knows how to look after friends in business more than his new friends in the north.
That is not to take away from Osborne’s sheer bravura.
Dealt a lousy hand in 2010, he messed the economy up for three years until it started healing itself in time for the election.
This is the chancellor who has gone from omnishambles to crowd-pleasing magician.
He warmed Tory benches yesterday with a two per cent defence commitment.
He tried to reach the country with the northern powerhouse talk and “one nation” rhetoric while framing Britain as a US-style low tax, low welfare economy. Audacious, not half.
It is all part of his project to discredit Labour’s decade of social democracy, to undo the redistributive work of Gordon Brown while the opposition is leaderless and without a compass.
The SNP, by the way, hardly matter to the chancellor.
With the tax-varying powers of the Scotland Bill Osborne reckons he has handed Holyrood a dirk to bleed Scotland’s veins with.
Every time Osborne pushes a tax cut Swinney must match it, as he did on devolved property taxes.
On every welfare cut he will challenge the SNP to fill the gap out of Scotland’s middle class pockets, and see who’ll vote for that.
There’s another project that is bigger for Osborne.
He has his eye on next door and the well-worn path for chancellors to move into the prime minister’s office.
Theresa, Boris and events stand in the way but Osborne has greatly improved his standing with the Tory party selectorate.
The Chancellor, a 16/1 outsider to be Tory leader two years ago, is now the bookies’ favourite to succeed David Cameron.
A roman haircut, a trim look and a new-found panache. That was a Prime Minister in waiting.