If George Osborne was ever a conservative he dropped the pretence today. The chancellor sounded risibly pompous as he declared his plan to impose a slimming regime on Britain’s heaving population of wobble-bottoms. A levy on fizzy pop will arrive in 2018. Even before he’d explained the rationale behind his Weightwatcher’s initiative he’d sabotaged it by exempting ‘milk-based drinks’. But a tax on pop already carries innumerable loop-holes in the form of doughnuts, choccie bicccies, Jammy Dodgers and cream puffs. The intellectual basis of this self-congratulatory exercise is the assumption that Britain’s much-maligned chubsters are a) too dim to add up or b) too lazy to waddle from the beverage display to the cake counter. It’s very unfair on the fat who more than pull their weight in their support of British agriculture.
The barley-water tax will have two bands which means that many thousands of pen-pushers and sugar-tasters will be needed to administer it. Which is OK by Osbo. He loves hiring bureaucrats. He wants more of them here. And more in Brussels too. And he’s fully supported by the ‘independent’ Office of Budget Responsibility. Having declared that the OBR will not participate in the referendum debate, Osbo disproved this instantly by citing its ‘neutral’ critique which warns that Brexit will create ‘negative implications for business’ and ‘disruptive uncertainty’. Arise Sir Robert Chote. Knighted for services to scare-mongering.
Northern cities are to have mayoralties forced on them, (including Manchester which spurned the idea in a 2012 referendum). Each mayor will come ready-packed with a busy retinue of wonks, interns, advisers and lobbyists. And Osbo wants the contagion to spread south. Effectively he’s reviving John Prescott’s dead-parrot project: regional assemblies. The chancellor announced ‘an East Anglia authority with an elected mayor’, and a brand new jurisdiction called ‘the west of England.’ Both these paperclip kingdoms will suck up a billion quid — a sum specified by Osbo — and will squirt it back out in the form of chauffeured cars, secretarial expenses and pension rights. The only tribe served by this outbreak of political thumb-twiddling is the Westminster bubble and its armies of pollsters, journalists and starry-eyed PPE graduates ready for a life battening on public funds. People need less of this ‘leadership’. Not more.
And Osbo wants to spill another tanker load of ink over us with a multi-layered scheme for junior savers. Each time a youngster deposits a quid in a government bank account an extra 25 p will be paid in by ‘the state,’ (i.e., everyone else). But the scheme applies only to the under-40s which will make it fiddly to regulate and wide open to fraud. I have eight nephews under 40. So guess what? They’re all getting new savings accounts for Easter. Four grand each. Profit, eight grand. Split it 50-50. Cheers, George.
What a budget. Armies of extra bureaucrats, taxes on Pepsi and Fanta, and government bribes for younger savers. The resources of the state are being used to inform the citizen that he’s a moron who can’t look after himself. The chancellor might as well have finished with the Red Flag.