By George!

By Global Tax Weekly

By George! The UK’s Chancellor (Finance Minister) seems to have brought off the impossible by announcing a budget which everyone agrees with. Of course the Opposition (its duty is to oppose, as they always say) sent up some ritual distress flares, but they illuminated more of Labour’s distress than Osborne’s. Different commentators had different takes on the cleverness of the Budget, from very clever to surpassingly clever; but no-one called it stupid. Everyone realizes that it is an electoral Budget; that is hardly worth saying. What is perhaps worth observing is that there is no doctrine in the Treasury at present; there is just a cold calculation of how to retain and increase political power. Like it or not, this is the most impressive governing engine that has been seen in Whitehall for decades. And in fact there is quite a bit to like. In particular the abolition of forcible annuities for pensioners is a move in the right direction. It has long been an outrage that 75-year-olds are compelled to convert their pension savings into annuities at contemptible rates dictated by a small coterie of unaccountable City insurers. Not only is it morally correct that people should be able to make their own choices of how to deploy (or waste) their savings, it will almost certainly increase the tax take at the same time as increasing personal freedoms. It is not given to many politicians to achieve both in one stroke. Old Etonian or not, it is becoming difficult to see how George Osborne can avoid becoming Prime Minister at some point. If there is an agreement to that effect between him and his friend, David Cameron, as there was said to be between Tony Blair and his ill-starred Chancellor Gordon Brown, it has not been revealed. They are much too clever to talk about such a thing in public.

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