When the Chancellor set out this year's Budget, opinion was divided. Various political commentators viewed it as more of a political Budget than an economic one; whilst others noted that only time would tell as to whether the country would see any fiscal improvement in the years leading to the next election. It was hard to tell what Osborne's Budget really said about the upcoming year. Now, however, all has been revealed: a halving in the UK's growth forecast to 0.6% followed by unfavourable welfare cuts, an unclear Help to Buy Scheme, fears over the £11.5bn government spending cuts, and confusion as to how any of the numbers add up have all shown that Osborne has broken his promises of the past. Put another way, this Budget was simply just another example of the meaningless vows made by politicians every year.
However, sometimes a broken promise says more about those that the promises were made to and less about those that made them. Regardless of a politician's party alignment, all are placed under the spotlight of unrealistic expectations by a society that is in desperate need of a hero.
There are certain qualities we look for in our public figures: amongst them are intelligence, courage and leadership. We place our public figures on pedestals as models of who we hope to become and what we want for the future. But among all the different types of public figures, from athletes to rock stars to actors, it's politicians that come under the most pressure; because they're the ones we look towards to make a real difference. Unlike a gold medal or a hit film, material issues are placed in their hands, and it's around those issues that they're voted for, appointed, and expected to deliver. Unfortunately, the inevitable failures and shortcomings that follow speak volumes about how unrealistic our expectations are.
We want progress and we want it now. This forces politicians into a corner, which there is only one way out of: lying. When things turn sour in politics and a public servant is forced to admit defeat, we condemn them as liars and criticise every phase of every bad decision made, until a new wrongdoer arises and we forget all about the previous one. As a result of this, we've created a system where a politician can boldly fall short of every pledge made, and yet be provided with avenues back into esteemed positions of power. So why does this cycle continue - a cycle that allows politicians to escape the penalties of making false promises and remain privileged without punishment?
One of the main reasons underlying the unrealistic expectations that we place on politicians is that we do not fully understand the issues. If you were to ask the average man (whatever that means) what issues Osborne's Budget raises, he would not be able to give you a comprehensive answer. And why should he be able to? Tell me, where in a person's day between their job, their families, their second job and their friends do they have the time and energy to fully understand all the policies that affect their lives? They simply can't, and because of this the way we vote is not borne out of an informed decision but out of sheer anger and frustration, and that type of voting does not allow for long-term growth and permanent change. It's one thing to argue that, if better informed, a voter would be able to understand and appreciate the need for time in allowing for long-term growth to happen. It's another thing to tell a voter to appreciate that more time is needed when their biggest concern that day is how to put food on the table. Long-term growth is one thing, but the uphill battle we face every day is far more pressing. The way we vote is not based in a fully educated understanding of a party's manifesto, but out of our immediate struggles.
So we're left with a Catch 22: justifiable anger dictating unjustifiable voting. All that frustration simply places unrealistic expectations on politicians - we misconstrue our right to a higher standard of living with a right to immediate results. We ask for something impossible, and as a result we are given an illusion of it. Hence Osborne's Budget of smoke and mirrors: political, not economical, and not beneficial. The Office for Budget Responsibility declared that the measures in this year's Budget produce a net effect on growth of exactly zero. Osborne calmed the wave of dissatisfaction from Joe Bloggs by swaddling voters with measures like duty cuts for beer drinkers and motorists, and it's made little discernible difference. It's reminiscent of Cameron's pledge for a referendum on the UK's membership within the EU by the 2017, a pledge made to calm another pressure group - his Eurosceptic backbenchers. The urge to appear to be doing something that is immediate, and sometimes drastic, by providing short-term fixes is not an unfamiliar strategy for this government.
Since the Budget speech in March, Osborne's tax cuts have proven themselves simply to be short-term solutions to distract us from effectively and wisely utilising our power as voters and as pressure groups. The Budget has continually fallen short of government assurances to fix what isn't working - it's been like giving plasters to a cancer patient. We can blame politicians for being liars and lambast every terrible decision they make, or we can recognise the part we've playing in cultivating a culture of political deceit that we so vehemently abhor. The honesty we need from politicians is the one thing we continually forgive them for lacking. And with every vote, in every constituency, in every election, an opportunity is missed to break this cycle, because each day we have to deal with the damage done by previous politicians and previous broken promises. Because of this, we are stuck in a cycle where, rather than voting with our long-term interests at heart, our ballot discourages any material change for the future.