In which the rules of the game are set

Last year I realised the Budget Speech was coming, and tried to guess what would be in it. Because, all in all, it’s usually fairly obvious. More taxes on things the government would rather you didn’t do, like drive around (all those roads need mending, you know) and smoke (those hospital beds don’t empty themselves). Lower taxes on whatever is the political fashion of the moment, or whatever will pull in the currently-targeted voting sector (the well-off but not hugely rich middle classes, at the moment).

This year, I wouldn’t have had a clue what to guess at. It’s random, little bits picked from here and there, without much of a cohesive feel to the thing.

The BBC has a cunning device which tells you how much better or worse off you’ll allegedly be, with all the various budget changes. I’m going to be a whole £25 per year richer, apparently. Which is fine – except that the calculator behaves as if all the changes were happening immediately. They’re not. All the things which will cost me money are happening straight away; all the things which will cost me less don’t happen for another year. Bugger.

The main purpose of the budget, I think, isn’t to keep Britain running smoothly or anything like that. It’s to make sure that Gordon Brown’s successor toes the line and does What Gordon Wants. A year from now the next budget will come along, with a different chancellor, but that promised tax cut still isn’t going to have come into effect. What chancellor, under Gordon (he assumes), is going to dare revoke it?

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