The Budget - Instant Reaction
In theory at least, George Osborne's second 2015 Budget should have been the most interesting and exciting since 1997.
As every reader will realise, this is the first time that a single party government has introduced its thoughts on the country's finances since Gordon Brown did so in 1997.
No longer can the Chancellor of the Exchequer blame the Lib Dems for every bad policy but, as a corollary, he can also do exactly what he and his party want without the fetters of those wishy-washy lefty types who until a couple of months ago occupied so many offices around him at the Treasury.
It may not be entirely coincidental but this is also the day on which London Underground workers decided to start a strike over working hours and pay.
Mr O does not like to make things easy. He not only has no money to play with but to make the game more complicated, his leader invented metaphorical handcuffs by promising not to increase the rates of income tax, NIC or VAT for the duration of this Parliament.
At the same time, the Government seems intent on cutting inheritance tax and corporation tax.
Where then will we find the money that the country so desperately needs to balance the books?
This is a Budget for working people. So said the Chancellor in his introduction but it wasn’t too apparent thereafter.
There is an attack on poorer students, which seems a little cynical and might make them into working people. Calling a loan in place of a grant “support” is also a fresh use of the language.
On the tax front, there was very little new and changes for very long-term non-doms for example are much milder than might have been the case. This could be an area that is revisited in the future though.
There is a swathe of measures to cut £12bn from those on benefits.
That is not the whole story, since as Boris Johnson pointed out, apparently seriously, while the poor are having their benefits cut, it would still be possible to reduce the highest rate of income tax for the very richest in society. Even in the knowledge that the London mayor might be the next leader of his party, Mr Osborne bravely resisted such a proposal, at least this time.
On the plus side, the long term goal is for the income tax threshold is increasing to £12,500 and the 40% rate to £50,000 but oh so slowly.
The £1m IHT exemption sounds good for the wealthy at least, depending on how it operates. One problem is that this is being paid for out of pension tax relief, which will hit many who are already struggling to provide for retirement.
On the corporate front, the increase in the AIA to £200,000 will be of benefit to some smaller players anyway and is definitely welcome. Add in a reduction in the CT rate to 18% and you can see why benefits have had to be cut so far. Maybe at these rates, even the large multinationals might deign to pay it?
A new attack on dividends is a very clever way to address the abuses (if they are) of personal service companies.
Mr Osborne also seems to subscribe to the good old Chinese diktat of restricting the numbers of children that the poor are allowed.
All things are relative and by recent standards, this is an exciting Budget but even so most of us will be looking for something genuinely thrilling hidden in the small print.
Somehow, none of this seems quite so bad when you can write about the event while plugged in to gloriously perfect music on the amazing new AK Jr, reviewed last week.
It is capable of blocking out all of those irritating open plan interruptions but sadly not hasn’t the power to silence the Chancellor or Leader of the Opposition when they stand at the despatch box.