Sketch: Whatever you do, don't read the ingredients on the Diet Pepsi Budget

George Osborne's 'budget for a new generation' tasted sort of sweet at first, but don't be fooled.

  • @tompeck

The Diet Pepsi budget is how George Osborne will want you to remember it. “It’s the budget for a new generation,” he even said, roughly once every three sentences, and that was before he’d changed the world forever by whacking 8p on a can of fizzy pop.

That’s the thing with diet drinks. They taste sweet enough, but you know it’s not real and the last thing you should ever do is try and find out what’s in it.

The lifetime ISA? “A Government helping people who work hard and save,” George said. So if you’ve got a few hundred quid left over at the end of every month, George will top it up with a bit more. But if you’re working hard just to make ends meet, then look elsewhere. 

Then there was the Airbnb tax break, “For the micro-entrepreneurs who rent out their homes through the internet.” Does having a spare house, or even a spare bedroom make you an entrepreneur? Maybe it does. But what if you’d rather put a carer for your disabled son in there rather than a couple of Korean tourists?

The business rate thresholds transformed. No more rates at all for 600,000 small businesses. “A typical newsagents in Nuneaton will pay no business rates.” Well that, in fairness, is a relief because how long they’ll last now a can of Lilt costs a quid is anyone’s guess.

Capital gains tax down from 28 per cent to 20 per cent. “A rocket booster on the back of productive investment,” and great news too for anyone who receives annual dividends from a leading luxury wallpaper company.

“We stuck to our long term economic plan,” he continued, sticking just as faithfully to that soundbite dreamt up just over a year ago, and unabashed by the UK growth forecast he had just revealed had come down by a sixth in only four months. All those things you can do, David Cameron says every week at Prime Minister’s Questions, with a “strong economy” a “sound plan.” Thank goodness they’ve been up on the roof these past six years, fixing away, but it could piss down at any minute so get your umbrellas out. And if you fancy a gin and tonic, make sure it’s a slimline.

According to the Chancellor, the fizzy drink tax will raise more than £500m, and will “double the amount of funding we dedicate to sport in every primary school.” A commendable initiative, but how little is currently being spent if a Coca Cola tax is enough to double it?

Jeremy Corbyn’s response was better than expected. He certainly shouted a lot. At first it looked like he’d even taken the Prime Minister’s advice and ‘put on a proper suit’, but his navy blazer was offset by his usual black trousers, so as to make the sartorial impression of an ambulant bruise. At one point he measured government productivity through the unlikely unit of government press releases about house building in Ebbsfleet, but none of that is to say that he didn’t have his moments.

“This budget has unfairness at its very core, paid for by those who can least afford it,” he shouted, correctly. His final observation was right too.  “It will require a Labour government to harness the energy of young people.” It’s just a pity that by the time they get one, if they ever get one, they won’t be young people anymore.

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