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What I want from the Budget: some conservatism

18 March 2014

10:18 AM

18 March 2014

10:18 AM

Budget day tomorrow, and I’m sure many of you will relish the reminder that you are, in George Osborne’s reported view, ‘successful’ because you pay 40p tax band.

It’s better than that, in fact. I know of men who ask their partners to make obscene references about their tax contribution during intimate moments, about how they are part of the 15 per cent of taxpayers who are reducing the deficit and making Britain the fastest-growing economy in the G7.

Stranger still, Osborne is reported to have said, although he denies everything, that the 40p tax made people more likely to vote Conservative. This is the polar opposite of the truth; the life choice most likely to steer men and women from left-liberal singleton lifestyles towards a conservative outlook is marriage and children; in the US, the GOP’s marriage gap for women is enormous.

If the Conservatives are as interested in socially engineering the electorate as their opponents, then the one thing their economic policy should be steered at is making it easier for people to settle down and have kids.

Yet family formation is now very expensive; housing costs in particular mean that only the very rich and very poor can afford to have children, and that’s especially the case if one partner is at home with the kids (which I know in the eyes of Osbornian Conservatives is an offence to God). But the tax system also makes it hard, especially in London; according to the Financial Times, had the higher-rate threshold of income tax kept pace with wages it would be £75,700, rather than the £41,000 it currently is.

So my main hope for the budget is that the government eases the tax burden on middle-class earners; it can do this by raising the personal allowance threshold further or by raising the higher-rate threshold, which now catches 4.4 million taxpayers. How it saves the money is another matter.

All the best places to live in, a striking example being America during the middle-third of the 20th century, were middle-class societies with a large number of relatively well-off people who could afford to start families and enjoy the good things in life, and in which even poorer folk had a chicken in the pot. That’s precisely the opposite direction we seem to be heading, mainly due to technology and globalisation stripping out jobs but also cultural changes, too. (The BBC, for instance, the impartiality of which was questioned by Owen Jones yesterday, simply reflects the biases of the new ruling class, socially liberal but on some economic issues quite right-wing.)

And the problem with hellish dystopias, along with the crime, misery and general squalor, is that they don’t provide very fertile ground for centre-right libertarianism of the George Osborne variety. If you want people to vote Conservative, allow them the chance to live like Conservatives.

On the evening of Wednesday 19 March 2014, Fraser Nelson, James Forsyth and Andrew Neil will be discussing what George Osborne’s 2014 budget means. Click here to book tickets.

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