The Treasury has largely managed to maintain discipline in the run-up to the Budget, with only controlled briefings in the past few days, rather than last year’s public row over tax cuts. Yesterday we were told about the additional departmental spending cuts to fund infrastructure: the pain has already been briefed so that today the £2.5billion raised from cuts can be painted more as gain. There are also some carefully-placed stories on the front pages this morning, too.
Last year’s Budget didn’t have much in it for Sun readers: the pasty and caravan taxes did for any suggestion that the government was on their side while it cut the top rate of tax. And after the Budget, the newspaper sent a model to hand out pasties on the steps of the Treasury. We all know what happened to those taxes. But this year, the newspaper wins on a campaign for the abolition of the beer duty escalator. The paper quotes a Whitehall source, who underlines why this particular announcement is an important part of the Chancellor’s drive to appear on the side of hardworking families who are feeling the squeeze:
‘George can’t afford to do much for anyone this year as the state of public finances is still so bad. But he wants to do what he can to help working Brits — and that means making a well-earned pint at the end of the day a little cheaper.’
Meanwhile, the Guardian’s front page reminds us that whatever happens in the House of Commons Chamber this afternoon, it’s going to be overshadowed by events in Cyprus. But its Budget story also focuses on cost of living measures: on raising the personal tax allowance to £10,000 a year early, and on the chance that Osborne will either delay or scrap the fuel duty rise.
The Independent has the same story as its splash.
The FT has those stories on the personal tax threshold and fuel duty in its splash, but it also examines those £2.5bn in departmental spending cuts. But Osborne will be heartened that the coverage has been largely about removing tax pressure for those at the bottom, rather than adding taxes on certain items.
But lest we forget, the spectre of the 50p tax cut still hovers over the coverage. The Mirror harks back to last year’s Budget with a strapline that will put Ed Balls in a very good mood as he consumes his five-point plan for breakfast.
But the Budget hasn’t yet brought the two biggest right-wing papers on side. Both the Mail and the Telegraph are livid that the Coalition has announced support for working parents, but not for those who stay at home to look after their children. True, the Telegraph has a small column which predicts a pay rise for troops in today’s announcement. But the paper’s main focus is on the ‘slur’ on stay-at-home mothers, with angry quotes from Tory MPs. It’s a reminder that there are many on the Tory side who are nervous that the Coalition isn’t doing enough to support marriage and traditional families.
The Times doesn’t have a Budget story on its front page, but inside the paper, it predicts that ‘George Osborne will offer meagre help to homebuyers, small businesses and cash-strapped households today as he warns of tough decisions to come’. The Chancellor has just joined Twitter, too, telling followers that ‘today I’ll present a Budget that tackles the economy’s problems head on helping those who want to work hard & get on’.
The big test is whether that meagre help is enough to sustain positive front pages tomorrow, and in a week’s time when the Budget doesn’t unravel like it did last year.Tags: Budget 2013, George Osborne, UK politics