Aditya Chakrabortty’s analysis of the budget (Johnsonism’s first budget is floating on hype and hot air, 12 March) does an excellent job of explaining that while it may be a move away from the austerity politics of the last 10 years, it is certainly not what we would have hoped for from a Labour budget in terms of helping the have-nots rather than the haves.
I’m less sure this can be called Johnsonism, at least not yet. Thatcherism, a term used by the late Stuart Hall and others around Marxism Today in the 1980s, signified a new Tory policy of “authoritarian populism” as they saw it. Perhaps that does capture Johnson’s perspective. The significant change, however, was a move from looking to the manufacturing industry as the key source of riches for the wealthy towards the financial and services sector. By contrast Johnson’s policies seem to reflect a well-funded Micawberism. Something will turn up to allow him to stay in office and he’ll back whatever that may be. It hardly amounts to a coherent ideology.
• In 1972, the then chancellor of the exchequer, Anthony Barber, delivered his now infamous “Barber boom” budget injecting the then unheard-of amount of £1.8bn into the economy. This confounded Harold Wilson’s Labour opposition who were at the time tearing themselves apart over, amongst other things, their poor economic growth performance while in government in 1964-1970.
Like Sunak’s budget on Wednesday, the Tories were stealing Labour’s policy of Keynesian-driven growth. However, it all ended very badly for both the Tories and Britain, with the first recession since the second world war, rapid inflation, higher unemployment and the largest balance of payments deficit ever previously recorded. But by then it was Wilson’s problem as the Tories lost the February 1974 election. Will history judge Sunak’s budget in the same way it judges Barber’s?
• It has long been acknowledged that the funding of social care is inadequate, that the system is in need of a major overhaul and NHS performance is intimately linked to care services. However, yet again – and despite earlier claims that Mr Johnson is a “man with a plan” – the issue has been ignored by a chancellor who found no difficulty spraying public money around. The health and social care secretary may justify his colleague’s inaction by telling us that he is convening cross-party discussions to arrive at a consensus, but surely even he can see that one of the ways of oiling the wheels of collaboration is to provide a budget against which sustainable solutions can be developed and introduced.
• The chancellor’s announcement of a “green gas levy” might appear to be a welcome step in battling the climate emergency (UK takes first small steps to tackle carbon from worst polluters, 12 March), though it’s worth noting that the non-domestic renewable heat incentive (RHI) has subsidised the production of “green” natural gas (biomethane) for a number of years, and is funded from general taxation. So potentially this isn’t a new measure, and is just moving the funding from indirect taxation to a regressive direct tax.
• Budget day was a wonderful opportunity for the chancellor to have an impact on the country’s carbon output by increasing the fuel duty at a time when the price of fuel was falling. When is the government going to take the climate crisis seriously?
Dr David Rowe
Newcastle upon Tyne
• Let’s state the position in simple words: a budget that is just repairing the damage to the British economy and social wellbeing brought about by 10 years of unnecessary Tory austerity government. Few will understand that, far too many will be taken in.
• All these extra billions to spend on infrastructure and broadband; did Labour win the election, or are the Conservatives now communists?
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