by Boni Sones OBE, Policy Associate at the CBR and Executive Producer, ParliamentaryRadio.com
The Political Editors, the MPs, and the campaigner Jamie Oliver
George Osborne’s eighth budget got a mixed reaction from MPs and lobby journalists. No sooner had he sat down on the green benches beside the Prime Minister, David Cameron, than his supporters and opponents either begun to shower praise on him or to re-frame his record as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The next day the government had to do a “U” turn over its controversial cut-back to Personal Independence Payments for disabled people and it led to the resignation of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith.
In this special www.parliamentaryradio.com and CBR half-hour documentary we first spoke to Heather Stewart and Anushka Asthana, the newly appointed first female political editors of a national broadsheet, who job share working for the Guardian. We then asked three female politicians, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP (Cons), Rupa Huq MP (Lab), and Baroness Susan Kramer (LD), to give us their reaction to the budget announcements. We also spoke with Jamie Oliver, who was “over the moon” about the new sugar tax which he said would help the poor.
Heather Stewart said: “He has missed most of his fiscal targets, so it is hard to say he has been a roaring success as a Chancellor, his record looking at the economic and fiscal forecast is quite mixed.”
Anushka Asthana said: “He was trying to sweeten the picture with that sugar tax, to almost cover up that grim economic picture but we are watching all of this through the lens of a leadership battle that we know is to come, and George Osborne has his eye on it. I think he was trying to walk a careful path towards a centrist path as a Conservative Chancellor. He has a difficult EU referendum and has to throw some red meat to the back benches and he did that with policies to help small business, a reduction in corporation tax, trying to help out savers, and freezing fuel duty.
The impact on disability benefit with a cut back of £1.2 billion is going to hit people who are struggling who needs aids, and it is not just Labour who is going to be worried about it Conservatives are showing a lot of angst too, and so is the Department of Work and Pensions.”
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Conservative MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed said: “I am very pleased with it, it is a very robust forward thinking programme that includes measures like rolling forward the Academy programme, and the introduction of a sugar levy which is something I have campaigned on for a long time, with a certain amount of ridicule. I think it is really important that a government understands how to look after our children at every level.”
Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton said: ”I was a bit disappointed by this, it was a bit thin, Osborne is known as a master magician who can pull rabbits out of hats, a lot of these things won’t come in until 2020 after which he will long cease to be a Chancellor, it seems to be a lot of smoke and mirrors. For the average person it is not going to massively improve their lives all these things are skewed towards the rich. They are putting the next generation first if they have rich parents who can help them save with these ISAs but it has done nothing for the environment. The sugar tax is something I have lobbied for. Women have borne the brunt of these cuts as they work in local government which is being cut back.”
Baroness Kramer the LD Economy spokesperson said: “This is the sweet and sour budget, the government has missed its targets and Osborne is making us pay for that with 3.5 billion of mystery cuts to come out of public spending. They will be front line, the schools and health service have to put an extra 2 billion into pension funds and that will come out of the front line. He has made some very welcome cuts in business rates but that is coming out of the money that usually goes to local government, people are going to feel that cut. I am delighted with the sugar tax all credit to campaigners because obesity is a blight, but the education budget is being cut, so I only see the sugar tax as a little bit of a token. The ISA saving scheme is a way of changing all of our pensions in future years, so I hope young people put the money first into a pension and only the left-overs into an ISA. “
Chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver said: “When I woke up this morning, I didn’t even think this would happen it is an extraordinary curve ball in my day and on behalf of all the parents and children in Britain I am over the moon. I am so happy, not just because of the sugary drink tax, it is also the hard cash going into primary schools, and it is a precursor to the government releasing the childhood obesity strategy which is the real grunt work. If you are a poor kid in Britain you are four times more likely to be obese, and I told Osborne that, it is about the fact they have done it and now I am excited to see what happens with the strategy.”
Listen to the podcast
Listen to this podcast Interview with Heather Stewart, Anushka Asthana and Rupa Huq