THE BLOG

Budget 2016: This Is a Government Detached From the Reality of the Lives of Many Millions of Britons

17/03/2016 09:01 GMT | Updated 18/03/2017 09:12 GMT

Today Chancellor George Osborne delivered a budget that provided assurance, if more was needed, that this is a government detached from the reality of the lives of many millions of Britons - of entire communities where businesses are struggling, families live in desperation, and the food banks are booming.

This is the Britain where it is a daily struggle to keep food on the table and a roof over your head, to juggle bills, loan repayments, to deal with sudden expenses without recourse to high-cost borrowing.

This is the real Britain, beyond the gilded halls of Westminster, where more than eight million people, one in six adults, are trapped with "problem debt".

It's a Britain in which zero-hours are at record levels, with more than 800,000 workers uncertain what their income - if any - will be each week. Even if you stash away a little cash one week, you may well need it the next.

It's a Britain where more than 70% of young people face 30 years of payments on student loans they have no hope of paying off - for courses that give them skills and knowledge, while society fails to provide the quality, secure jobs that can utilise them.

The Chancellor used the phrase "next generation" 19 times - with the major focus of this Budget measures to benefit those who can afford to save.

Yet the idea of saving for the future is not even on the horizon for most younger people. One of the Tweeters in my feed used sarcasm to get the point across: "No bother: I'll be sure to fire £4k away every year whilst on a £15,000 a year 6 day a week job."

Those who can will mostly be those who can benefit from the bank of mum and dad - one way in which the privileged few can ensure further privilege for their offspring, whilst saving themselves some tax along the way.

And for many of their elders the situation is no better. Women hit by the rise in pension age, in their late 50s and early 60s, can find jobs impossible to come by, Job Centres unsympathetic and unrealistic about their needs and capacities. Their savings disappear with redundancy or a bout of ill health. A long retirement of penury and want looms.

For disabled people, this government has been a true disaster. It's a real wonder that Osborne could get out the words "support is better targeted" - that means massive cuts in the Personal Independence Payment and Employment Support allowance.

He's making the disabled and ill pay for budget cuts that even the financial sector, in the form of Mike Amey, managing director of the world's biggest bond trader Pimco, said this morning are unnecessary.

That detachment from reality too is evident in the macro picture. The Chancellor's a man with plenty of cheek, you have to give him that.

He claimed that this government will "put stability first": this from a man who's see-sawed from astonishing optimism in November with the Autumn statement to "blame the world" pessimism now.

This from a man who's, yet again, missed his targets for debt and deficit reduction, even as he plans to squeeze down the size of the government spending to 36% of GDP - making him the man who's slashing down the size of the state even further than Margaret Thatcher.

"Spin" really isn't a strong enough word for the Chancellor's approach - we really are in a world of delusion, of detachment from reality.

And that's without even getting to another detachment from reality, that of climate change: as stressed by the February temperature figures, which take us into uncharted, fearful territory.

David Cameron was in Paris a few months ago promising action. Today he looked like a marionette as he nodded away behind his Chancellor, as fuel duty remained frozen (despite the cost of motoring being at a historic low), fossil fuel companies were offered even further tax breaks, and more roads were planned in a country in which air pollution takes a fearful toll.

No one expects total honesty from a Chancellor on Budget day - but what we got today were airy, meaningless promises and naked ideological cruelty.

The Tories have been exposed. They don't have a stable majority, they don't have the country's consent for their approach (having won the support of just 24% of eligible voters).

We cannot allow George Osborne to stand up eight more times to deliver more benefits for the 1% of the richest at the cost of the rest of us, to ignore the reality of the finite environmental limits of our one fragile planet.