I look outside and see nothing but gloom and darkness and wildness tonight. I could be George Osborne looking out at the economy.
No, scrub that. I could never be George Osborne. But there seriously isn’t much to take any sort of cheer from in what he said today.
The only thing that we can be sure of is that Osborne alone would not have seen any reason to uprate benefits in line with inflation – but that idea was kicked into touch, as has been widely reported, by the Liberal Democrats.
It’s an important thing.
Unfortunately, tax credits are not getting an inflation busting increase. That really makes me annoyed. I literally hate to be taking money away from the poorest families under any circumstances. We can talk until we’re blue in the face about the mechanics of tax credits vs streamlining of the tax/benefits stuff vs citizens’ income, but in the end of the day, those families will just know that their money will go even less far next year. When I see that in conjunction with a rise in the bank levy just to get what they expected to get, I feel that more could be done.
I would not have been averse to a further, even modest but not necessarily so, rise in Capital Gains Tax so that the high earning city fat cats feel a bit more pain.
The Government is facing a pretty horrific set of economic circumstances. Apart from the legacy of Labour splashing cash for years, there’s all the daily, gloomy headlines from the Eurozone – our main trading partners. Sure, we’re in better shape than Greece, Spain, Italy and Ireland.
It makes me very sad to read that an extra 290,000 people will lose their jobs in the public sector, though. Nobody should ever feel good about effectively putting a large city on the dole queue when we all know the private sector isn’t going to replace those jobs, or there won’t be a match in skills in the few they do pick up.
So, Danny Alexander is right to send party members an e-mail telling us what the Liberal Democrats have achieved – but he’s not right to tell us that we can feel proud of what we’ve done. Slightly relieved is as good as it gets at the moment. It could be an awful lot worse if the Tories were governing alone – that much gets clearer every day. It still doesn’t make it easier to see people made unemployed, and other, poorer folk having more reason to struggle.
My heart is heavy tonight.