Letter: Kenneth Clarke's Budget: taxes, consumer spending, unemployment and Canada's Tories

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The Independent Online
Sir: Kenneth Clarke's abolition of marriage allowance was one of the biggest changes in the Budget - pounds 830m, rising soon to a billion. The lack of response is an index in the shift of interest that has occurred over the past decade in the British centre, both at Westminster and in the media.

We have recently moved back from western Canada, where similar things occurred through the 1980s. Eventually, the lions roared and ate the tamer. It started with the Canadian Tory destruction of the West's railways; a decade of assault on settled values followed, with changes to Sunday shopping, VAT changes, a tax system that was superficially individual but in reality hit married couples harder than cohabiting singles. All the familiar British ingredients, introduced by a government that was seen as being wholly for big business.

The response was the explosive growth of the Reform Party. The UK media have portrayed this as a party of the redneck right, but that is unfair. It has those followers, but as a Liberal I found its basic Gladstonian radical stance difficult to counter. It stood for family values, financial prudence, and a caring but not extravagant society. The rednecks are strictly followers, not leaders.

Unless the UK Liberals listen carefully to the likes of David Alton, they will find a similar new rival party develops here. For the Tories, Mr Clarke's abolition of the marriage allowance may have even more interesting consequences. Given that Westminster has rather more seats than Ottawa, I should guess four seats for the anti-family Tories at the next election.

Yours sincerely,


Englefield Green, Surrey

1 December