Who does George Osborne think he’s trying to kid?

The Autumn Statement succeeded only in flagging up just how many pledges the Tories have broken

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The Independent Online

“Hooray!” you might have thought as you stared at the front of your newspaper. George Osborne’s Autumn Statement was a cracker, it seemed. But as is the case with these things, a little look beneath the surface revealed something entirely different, despite this being Mr Osborne’s big giveaway before the General Election next year.

First, let’s tackle this stamp duty stuff head-on. It’s great that the slab method of collecting tax on someone’s home-buying has been eradicated. It’s not so great for people who are looking for houses in the capital, who are set to be the victims of a Francois Hollande-style hate tax. Mr Osborne may as well have been wearing a tee-shirt adorned with the slogan, “Eat the Rich” as he tried to outmaneuver Labour on its mansion tax policy, rightly eviscerated by Myleene Klass some weeks ago.

It’s pure and simple for Mr Miliband: you’ve got to treat people more equally. Not only do you increase tax receipts this way, but you foster a society in which charitable giving is incentivised, and whereby people from different socio-economic groups are less likely to resent others. Whatever happened to these flatter tax systems we were once sold? The social cohesion we were promised? As ever at election time, it’s divide and rule.

And these tactics come at a price – and one that Mr Osborne is evidently willing to pay, even if the cost includes breaking yet another Conservative Party manifesto pledge. I’m talking of course about the deficit, which is this year going to come in at a whopping £90bn. In June 2010, we were made to believe that it would be at £37bn by now. Another promise broken.

It’s certainly not the first, nor will it be the last. In fact, I was flicking through a “Contract with the British people” earlier this week and could only really see one area out of 16 where the Conservative Party has kept its promise: creating a National Citizen Service. Hooray.

More or less, the entirety of the Autumn Statement was either an admission of failure thus far, a last-gasp bribe, or hypocrisy based on the “austerity” argument we were forced to swallow. The national debt stands at £1.4tn, the Tory welfare reforms are once again up in the air, there’s been a minuscule rise in the personal income tax allowance, and at the moment this “Google tax” idea has been slated for potentially breaching European Economic Area rules.

Don’t forget, the deficit was the raison d’etre of this coalition government. Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg said that they had come “together in the national interest” and the Tories promised to eradicate the first of Britain’s financial woes by 2016. Mr Cameron told us at the time: “If we don’t deliver our side of the bargain, vote us out in five years’ time”. I reckon we should oblige him.

The truth is that unless you’re in a serious position to stump up tens of thousands for a deposit, and then commit to buying a house before the next election, when suddenly all of the mainstream parties will stop caring about you, then the Autumn Statement probably didn’t mean much. And even if you are in that position – are you going to allow your vote to be bought for £500, when this lot have dipped into your pockets and spent far more than that on their ideological vanity projects for the past 18 years?

The political classes like keeping you disengaged, and in many ways the Autumn Statement was the perfect ruse. It was conflicted, confused, and fundamentally lacked drive. Mr Osborne is hoping that his words from are enough to make you vote Conservative in May. For one reason or another, I doubt he’s on to a winner.

If Ukip are cuckoo, why the mimicry?

Where the Tories are on to winners however, is in reading Ukip’s policies. The only problem is they’re copying and pasting them from our website, and trying to sell you all a sort of “Ukip-lite” option.

Of course by now we know that the “lite” really means “we won’t actually do it”. Following the double failure of his European Referendum Bill, and the fact that no parliament can bind its successor, a referendum on Britain’s EU membership is looking less and less likely.

But that hasn’t stopped the Tories digging into our pockets further. They did it with the idea of taking those earning minimum wage out of tax. They did it with the idea of a sovereign wealth fund surrounding shale gas. They’re now trying to do it, though no one really believes them, on mass migration and the benefits Britain currently gives away.

Meanwhile, we’re supposed to be the “fringe” or “fruitcakes” or whatever the latest smear is. Well if we’re so cuckoo, Mr Cameron, please stop the mimicry. Either that or admit to the British people that you’ve got it wrong, and Ukip have it right.

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