Isabel and Sebastian are right: #ToryBingo is embarrassing. The advert was crass to the point of being idiotic. The use of the word ‘they’ rather than ‘you’ to describe ‘hardworking people’ was sloppy. The episode has taken some of the gloss off an otherwise shiny Budget. It is, emphatically, bad PR.
That said; I don’t imagine that the Tories will be too displeased by the furore. #ToryBingo has given a huge amount of exposure to two Budget measures that would otherwise have been buried beneath the pension announcement: the Tories have cut tax on bingo and duty on beer. Neither of those measures is going to turn the next election in the Tories’ favour; but, beside the increases in the personal allowance and the effort to control council tax over the last 4 years, it creates an impression that the Tories are on the side of working people on middle-to-low income.
Speaking as as a basic-rate taxpayer in no danger of the fiscal drag (though not I regret as a Bingo player), I have to say that the pension announcement means little to me because my pension is so vanishingly small – enough to buy a toy Lamborghini, perhaps, but not much else. A very long working life stretches out before me and, to be honest, the prospect isn’t much fun. A pint of beer with friends every now and then is one of the things that I enjoy.
Do I feel patronised by the beer duty cut? Hell yes. But I feel patronised by more or less everything politicians say: from the ‘hardworking people’ mantra of the ‘out of touch’ Tories, to the Labour Party’s maddening presumption that it represents my best interests by virtue of nothing other than its illustrious history. A plague on both your houses, I say.
But, of course, petulance can never be a policy for someone in my financial position; I need to find a way of bettering myself. Unless and until wages outstrip inflation (and I’m sceptical that, in my job and with my skills, they will), my best hope is that my taxes are cut.
This is why politics matters to me – and this is why I’m quite happy to be patronised by #ToryBingo: the Tories are keeping my taxes down. I have a little more disposable income now than I did in 2010 – not much, but a little. Sure, the government could do more, much more – especially to VAT, property taxes and energy bills. But what, on the other hand, is the Labour Party proposing to do to my tax bill?
This week’s Budget gave me a very clear indication. The public finances are still a mess. The Labour Party can countenance neither spending cuts nor significant money saving reforms to public services – Ed Miliband couldn’t even respond to the Budget that was delivered. What am I, a low-to-middle income earner, supposed to make of this performance? There’s only one conclusion: Labour will raise taxes. They’ll raise everyone’s taxes and make lots of noise about ‘bankers’; but, when I think about it, I really don’t care about bankers and their bonuses: the only thing that matters is my tax bill.
If the Tories can transmit this relatively simple message to the millions of voters who are in my financial position, then Ed Miliband will lose. And, on the evidence of this week, he deserves to lose.