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One of the big political mistakes of the budget – even before the speech was given – was scheduling it for a Monday. Having it so early in the week gives parliament, thinktanks and journalists more working days to dig in to the detail this week. It may sound ridiculous, but it will certainly play a role in how this budget unravels.
The tone has already been set, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies rubbishing the claim that the deficit will be eliminated by the mid-2020s.
The other big political mistake is, of course, the promise that austerity is over. That pledge increasingly feels like Theresa May aimed solely for a day of good headlines. It simply is not a promise they can deliver while sticking to the spending commitments they have already spelled out – which include more enormous cuts to, for example, local government next year. As people see their services continue to get worse or disappear, they will, fairly, ask what happened to that promise.
It also means that when they see those cuts come in, they will view them as a choice, not a necessity. For the past eight years, the Conservatives have framed cuts as something they have to do, rather than something they want to do. Now they claim the belt-tightening years are over, it is impossible to argue that services they continue to decimate are anything other than an ideological agenda.
As Brexit – a topic curiously absent from most of the budget – begins to bite, the lack of a sunny uplands will not only be seen as a government failure, but an intended broken promise too.
Not that it makes this week easy for Labour, necessarily. We have seen already some disagreement and, well, confusion, mainly, over whether or not we back enormous tax cuts. Sometimes, it seems, the progressive arguments need more clarity.
On that note: make sure you vote in the current strategy board elections. Just search for ‘Progress – Strategy Board Elections 2018’ in your email inbox.
– Conor Pope, deputy editor
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