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Budget 2015: What George Osborne said.. and what the Chancellor really meant

Decoding the jargon in the Chancellor’s speech to unearth the real messages

John Rentoul
Thursday 09 July 2015 10:42 BST
George Osborne on his way to deliver his 'one-nation' (or is that 'Labour'?) Budget
George Osborne on his way to deliver his 'one-nation' (or is that 'Labour'?) Budget (Getty Images)

What he said This will be a Budget for working people… This is the new settlement.

From a one-nation Government, this is a one-nation Budget that takes the necessary steps and follows a sensible path for the benefit of the whole of the United Kingdom. And this is a Budget that can only be delivered because the British people trusted us to finish the job.

What he meant This will be a Labour Budget. You may have thought we were lucky to win the election on the back of scaremongering about Nicola Sturgeon, but I’m going to pretend it was a big social change. We won and we’re going to use all your best ideas.

What he said You only have to look at the crisis unfolding in Greece as I speak, to realise that if a country’s not in control of its borrowing, the borrowing takes control of the country.

What he meant Do you want old people to sit weeping outside closed banks? Well, it’s never going to happen here because we’re not in the euro, but I did have “Greece” in the office sweepstake.

Osborne explains why we shouldn't reduce the deficit faster (BBC)

What he said That brings me to the first of the key judgements in this Budget: how fast do we cut the deficit? And my answer is this: we should cut the deficit at the same pace as we did in the last Parliament. We shouldn’t go faster. We shouldn’t go slower.

What he meant Faster? What fool suggested that? Oh, me, five years ago. Well, I ended up following Alistair Darling’s plan to halve the deficit and we won the election so I’ll do that again.

What he said At this pace the national debt is lower as a share of our national income in every future year than when I presented the Budget in March. And it is achieved without a rollercoaster ride in public spending.

What he meant That will teach that Novak Djokovic lookalike Robert Chote at the Office for Budget Responsibility to accuse me of a rollercoaster path of spending plans. I changed them.

What he said We will take these decisions in a balanced and fair way. I can confirm that the analysis produced today shows that the richest are paying a greater share of tax than they were at the start of the last Parliament.

And more than that, we are continuing to devote a greater share of state support to the most vulnerable. As I said they would – those with the broadest shoulders are bearing the greatest burden. For we are all in this together.

What he meant That’s the passage that Ed Balls would have wanted to deliver. But we won and so I can steal all their best lines and Harriet Harman hasn’t time to read the small print of the analysis to find out if it’s true.

What he said And, in the last fortnight we’ve seen independent statistics showing that since 2010, child poverty is down and so is inequality. That comes on top of a record number of women in work, and the gender pay gap at an all-time low.

What he meant Just sayin’.

Tax imbalances? Or tax rises? (EPA)

What he said We’ve found annual savings of £12bn from welfare and £5bn from tackling tax evasion, avoidance, aggressive tax planning and imbalances in the tax system.

What he meant Tackling tax evasion is the first resort of any chancellor looking for the odd billion, but it doesn’t produce £5bn a year. So I’ve renamed “tax rises” and called them “imbalances in the tax system”. Old George Bush Snr could have learned from me. He should have said, “Read my lips: no new imbalances in the tax system.”

What he said I am today abolishing permanent non-dom tax status. Anyone resident in the UK for more than 15 of the past 20 years will now pay full British taxes on all worldwide income and gains.

What he meant Ed Miliband caught us out with this in the election campaign. But we won so we get to implement it.

What he said Four fifths of all journeys in this country are by road, yet we rank behind Puerto Rico and Namibia in the quality of our network.

What he meant I am now just making stuff up. Who won the election after all?

What he said When we reformed student funding in the last Parliament we were told by those who so opportunistically opposed us that it would put people from low-income backgrounds off from going to university. Instead we now see a record number of these students applying and succeeding. It is a triumph of progressive reform.

What he meant “Progressive” is a favourite word in Labour wonk-land. This will short-circuit all their synapses.

What he said One of the first pieces of advice I received in the Treasury was to cancel the plan for the Crick Institute, Tate Modern extension and Crossrail – but I rejected that advice, because I’ve always believed it’s to our nation’s great advantage that we have one of the world’s great capitals.

What he meant And I’m cleverer than Treasury mandarins, too. Who won the election? The Treasury Civil Servants’ Party?


What he said The Scottish Government will soon have to answer the question: “You’ve got the powers, when are you going to use them?”

What he meant Then there’s the SNP. I hate them too. We won the referendum. So they can get lost.

What he said Today we go further in building the Northern Powerhouse. I can today announce that I have reached agreement with the leaders of the 10 councils of Greater Manchester to devolve further powers to the city.

What he meant It doesn’t amount to much, but the slogan annoys Labour MPs, who think the north of England belongs to them.

What he said The left will never know this. The wish to pass something on to your children is about the most basic, human and natural aspiration there is.

What he meant I’m stealing all the centre ground from Labour, but that gives me the chance to do popular right-wing things too.

What he said It was the Conservatives who first protected people in the mills.

What he meant Now that I have claimed most of today’s centre ground, I’m going to rewrite history.

What he said The OBR today say that the new National Living Wage will have, in their words, only a “fractional” effect on jobs.

What he meant Yes, it will put people out of work – as we would have pointed out if Labour had suggested it. But we won, and it’s only “fractional”, so that’s all right.

What he said A plan for working people. One purpose. One policy. One nation.

What he meant Two purposes, actually: to win the Tory leadership in the 2018 tax year, and to push whichever nobody takes over Labour well off the centre ground for years. I shall win the next election as leader of the Working People’s Party.

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