Osborne’s budget: a stride towards Conservative victory

The Chancellor set out a clear case for a Conservative majority in Wednesday's budget, while Labour has run out of things to say. It’s time for nervous Tories to stop expressing concern and start campaigning for victory

Long-term economic plan: Osborne at today's budget
Steven George-Hilley
On 18 March 2015 21:01

It was billed as the moment the election would be won or lost, but in reality the 2015 budget was another milestone in the Conservative Party’s path to a working majority.

The giveaways and financial sweeteners after years of austerity were never going to swing an election, but they do form a critical building block in David Cameron’s re-election campaign.

Watching George Osborne deliver a wage increase for apprentices, tax cuts for savers and help-to-buy ISAs, it is hard to believe that the Chancellor is the same man who just a few years ago was on shaky ground.

Having shed a rumoured two stone and staying committed to his long-term economic plan despite intensive criticism from his own party, Osborne yesterday saw the fruits of his steadfast refusal to change course.

Ironically, the Labour leader Ed Miliband delivered a surprisingly good response to the budget. But this effort was rendered ineffectual against record employment figures and clear signs that under the Conservatives the economy is making a credible and sustainable recovery.

The hapless Labour leader was forced to accuse the Conservatives of a secret plan to axe the NHS budget. This line of attack might have stood up to scrutiny if the government hadn’t ring-fenced the NHS budget from austerity measures.

So, instead of looking like a Prime Minister in waiting, Mr Miliband looked more like a bizarre conspiracy theorist who had run out of things to say.

The stubborn poll ratings have in recent days caused disquiet amongst backbenchers. This loss of nerve has led to sporadic misgivings about election strategist Lynton Crosby and Party Chairman Grant Shapps finding their way into the national press, through anonymous quotes.

Those living in fear should take a step back and consider the fact that Ed Miliband has only just survived the long campaign and is highly likely to crumble in the intensive scrutiny of the final few weeks before polling day.

Those who helped with the remarkably successful Boris Johnson Mayoral campaign will recall that elections are won on a string of credible policies and achievements instead of a single speech.

With this in mind, there are no quick fix solutions to delivering a sudden lead in the opinion polls. But the Conservatives can continue to build momentum.

The budget clearly positioned the Conservatives on the side of the workers, the savers and the doers. Yet it is not quite clear who Ed Miliband is pitching to, given his metropolitan demeanour which has led to such a severe disconnect between Labour and its core voters.

The choice for Britain’s future has never been clearer. Regardless of what the polls say today, Ed Miliband is not prime ministerial material.

The voters know it and it is high time those jittery Tory backbenchers started to believe it too.

Steven George-Hilley is a director at the Parliament Street think tank. He is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator @StevenGeorgia

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