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Revealed: Osborne’s Budget giveaways for Tory marginals

25 November 2015

7:29 PM

25 November 2015

7:29 PM

Back in March, the Plymouth Herald was delighted by ‘a Budget with plenty for Plymouth’. As Mark Gettleson noted on Coffee House at the time, Plymouth is a ‘hyper-marginal city’: both its seats are currently held by Tories with small majorities, Oliver Colvile and Johnny Mercer. So the Chancellor’s generosity may not have come out of the blue. Now we have had an Autumn Statement with a bit more for Plymouth – half a million pounds for the 2020 Mayflower anniversary. Some might think it an exaggeration to describe this as pork barrel spending. But it was interesting to see how else Osborne spent the money. Even amid the ‘difficult decisions’, there was plenty for a few other places:

For Cornwall
All of Cornwall’s 6 seats are now held by the Tories – two of them gained from the Lib Dems in May, and four of them with majorities below 10,000. There was plenty of good news for the area, including a new route from Newquay airport to Bradford; a new Enterprise Zone; an invitation to the A391 Road Improvement Scheme to bid for funding; and a reaffirmation that the government will pay the first £50 of South West Water customers’ bills for the rest of the Parliament.

For Manchester
The city is at the heart of Osborne’s plans for the north, the Northern Powerhouse and the ‘devolution revolution’. So there may be more than artistic reasons to give nearly £90m to Manchester’s cultural industry: £78m for The Factory Manchester, £2.5m for the Museum of Science and Industry, and £5 million for Manchester Museum’s planned South Asia Gallery.

For Zac Goldsmith’s Mayoralty campaign
‘My Honourable Friend for Richmond Park’ was namechecked in Osborne’s speech on account of his campaign for affordable housing.

For Cheltenham The Tories gained this seat from the Lib Dems in May – Alex Chalk’s majority is now 6,516. It may be of some help in 2020 that the city will soon gain two cyber innovation centres. For Portsmouth As Flick Drummond (Con, Portsmouth South, majority 5,241) noted, it was a good day for the area’s museums:

For Herefordshire
Much excitement at the announcement of support for Herefordshire University, which will have a special focus on engineering. Jesse Norman – a Tory MP and an Osborne skeptic – said it could be ‘the most consequential development for Herefordshire since the building of Hereford Cathedral’, which took place 936 years ago.

For Norwich
With extra routes for Norwich Airport and an Enterprise Zone including Norwich Research Park. Chloe Smith (Con, Norwich, majority 4,463) welcomed these developments on her blog.

For campaign rhetoric
Tavistock Square will gain a memorial of the 7/7 bombings. This, Osborne explained, will remind us of the ‘threats to our way of life’ which demand greater ‘security’ – currently the Tories’ favourite word.

For (not very) cheap jokes
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust will receive funding, which allowed Osborne to repeat his Budget gag about ‘campaign bunkers’. He did show some warmth towards a political opponent, noting that Alan Johnson (Lab, Hull West and Wessle) had ‘personally asked’ Osborne to support Hull’s 2017 City of Culture year: ‘and I am happy to do so.’ He added, less graciously: ‘His campaign has contributed to the arts, while his frontbench contributes to comedy.’

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