A plea for prudence: please do no more harm

Date:

Gary Jackson

Depending on whether you are an early and avid reader of this fine magazine, or you have let the politics section languish for a couple of weeks, you will either be waiting for, or chewing over, the Chancellor’s Budget decisions and statement on 6th March. But whichever side of 6th March you read this, the clock is ticking down on the current government – which explains a great deal about the approach the Chancellor appears to be taking. First, let’s recall that it’s only been a few months since the PM promised ’long-term thinking’ and that he was ‘the change we desperately need’. Now, apparently, it’s about short-term thinking to prevent the change we need …
Last week I saw some of the national papers warning us of Jeremy Hunt’s ‘tax sandwich’. This is where some thin – but hopefully sufficiently distracting – tax-cut filling is briefly inserted between two doorstop wedges of highly taxed bread.
One of those bread slices is already in operation, and the other will be applied on the other side of the election – not by a new Labour government but by current Conservative plans already set out to 2027-28.
As the clock continues to tick on the slapstick and dramas of the current government, surely they owe the country a more dignified and competent final act? For a while, there were glimpses of grown-up decision-making, with worthy tax breaks for business investment, but taxes remain at their highest level on record. This is due to a continued freeze on tax thresholds while public services are starved.
The budget should be the opportunity for redemption. Instead, the Whitehall whispers suggest depressingly political tax cuts, shamefully aimed at political survival.
These choices risk making the nation’s long-term challenges harder to fix – much like applying a Band-Aid to a wound that needs stitches.
What choices would I make?
The focus would be on what I see we need in North Dorset and across the UK: prudent spending and investment in public services, infrastructure, health and defence. Giving people back their money is right when other factors are under control, but people are worried about critical, shared public services.
Cutting taxes now is ill-advised. My feeling is that the Chancellor should act more like a doctor and “do no [more] harm”.
Conservative populists who steered the country towards so many cliff edges owe the nation a period of quiet governance on their way out. They must resist the political game playing and fantasy fiscal football.
Gary Jackson
North Dorset Liberal Democrats

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