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The Stirrer’s Talk-In Radio Blog (9)

MOVE OVER DARLING

25-04-2009

Kings Arms Harborne - closed

There’s a lazy cliché that people aren’t interested in politics these days, but when a Budget has been announced it’s a different matter. As Stirrer editor Adrian Goldberg observes this isn’t necessarily good news for Alastair Darling.

When I was planning Thursday morning’s show, I wasn’t even sure I’d be discussing the Budget.

Alastair Darling’s reputation as a boring chancellor meant I was hedging my bets and waiting to see precisely what he said. In the event, of course, it was a landmark national event, and comfortably consumed five hours of phone-in conversation, even at the dead at night.

Darling would have taken some cheer from what my callers said, too. Some, but not much.

While the national media were focussing on the outrage of the 50p income tax band, my gut instinct was that this wouldn’t ruffle too many feathers among working class Brits.

The pundits fulminated about the prospect of a “brain drain” among entrepreneurs, but my argument was that most of the folk I could think of who earned above £150,000 a year – footballers, head teachers, local authority bigwigs, health bosses – were not in a position to simply up sticks and move elsewhere, no matter how punitive the tax regime. Nor were they primary wealth creators.

It was a theme echoed by my callers, who felt that it was entirely reasonable at a time of national emergency, that the wealthiest members of society should shoulder some of the pain.

That, though, was where the good news ended for Darling (well apart from one caller, Ted from East London, who recokoned it was a "splendid" budget, and thought Gordon Brown was doing a "wonderful" job).

The extra duty on booze and fags, was widely slated – never mind that it was entirely predictable. This was widely seen as a tax of the pleasures of the poor.

As for the new “cash for bangers” scrappage scheme, callers wondered how someone who drives a car of ten years vintage would find the money to invest in a brand new motor – even with the incentive of a guaranteed £2,000 trade-in.

Over-arching all this scepticism was a recognition that despite the grim demeanour of Darling's parliamentary announcement, he had deferred tough decisions about public spending until after the next election.

Few callers believed that his budget was the end of the recent economic turmoil or financial austerity; more the beginning of a long age of reckoning for the recklessness of the past decade.

An election is now little more than a year away, and the voters – as judged by my little late night phone-in – are in unforgiving mood.

They are already sending out the message – move over Darling, see ya later Gordon Brown.

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