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Weekend reading: Budget blues

Money articles and blog posts from around the web

This week’s phony UK budget may have been politically expedient and mostly harmless, but it didn’t make it any easier to decide who to vote for.

No wonder the polls predict a hung Parliament – this is voting by elimination, a real-life version of Hangman.

Starting with the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable grasped what was going in the crisis early and deserves some praise, but the rest of his party put the moan into sanctimonious.

The worst thing that could happen to the Liberals would be power-sharing with Labour or the Tories. The party would split as it was forced to make its first real ‘hard decision’ for nearly 30 years, and those remaining would find nothing corrupts wishful thinking like the burden of power.

I have some time for Labour’s Alistair Darling, who’s been given the job of mending the cathedral roof via a parish church whip round. He’s been what passes for honest in politics, and he hasn’t succumbed to the very worst impulses of his party.

That said, I do wonder if these now defiantly middle class would-be do-gooders would ever squeeze the middle classes ’til they squeaked. Higher taxes would so interfere with the school fees and the Umbrian wreck renovation fund, yeah?

Given how Labour MPs have flipped houses and a finger up at the electorate, they’re the very definition of the self-interested bourgeoisie that so appalled their forefathers. (And yes, it takes a member of the self-interested bourgeoisie to know one…)

That leaves the Tories, and like anybody who can use a calculator and heard Gordon Brown boom “No more boom and bust!” shortly before the biggest bust for 70 years, in principle I’d like them to get in and get the chainsaw out.

But Cameron and Osbourne, they’re not really working for me. What’s the big idea? Where’s the Thatcherite genius for turning painful requirements into a transforming national mission?

Cameron plays into the hands of the inverse class snobs, by cooing softly about cuts like the Fast Show’s lovestruck country squire telling his tenant farmer Fred there will be less barley from the lower fields this year. If we must be governed by the born to rule brigade, at least let’s have Shakespeare’s Henry V, not the distracted bumblers of Blackadder Goes Fourth.

Indeed, my post of the week comes from the pen of Caitlan Moran writing about Osbourne and Cameron in The Times (we may as well take advantage while it’s still free!)

Moran writes:

You can imagine early Victorian explorers discovering a Pacific island full of huge, delicious, hapless George Osbornes and clubbing them into extinction in three months flat.

She used a Blackadder reference, too. I must try harder – and so must Osborne.

Budget summaries

Here’s three roundups of the UK budget in detail:

And here’s a few tidbits the papers have skipped over that may interest Monevator readers:

  • Putting AIM shares into ISAs – the Government is consulting on the anomaly that means you currently can’t.
  • ISAs allowances will go up by RPI inflation as measured every September, but increases will be rounded to the nearest £120 to ease the maths.
  • The inheritance tax threshold has been frozen for four more years.
  • The new £1 million plus stamp duty band doesn’t come into force for a year.

Finally, I also wrote this week about Venture Capital Trusts and Personal Time Management.

Some interesting posts from the money blogs

A few other financial articles worth a look

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • 1 Financial Samurai March 27, 2010, 12:15 pm

    Mate, thanks for your wrap. Do you have any opinions of Sir John Major by any chance? Was he a good PM or not so good? I ask b/c I actually have an opportunity to speak to him in person next week for some secret reason, and I’m wondering what I should ask him!

    Cheers, Sam
    .-= Financial Samurai on: Interviewing Is Like Dating – Hubba, Hubba! =-.

  • 2 Faustus March 27, 2010, 1:21 pm

    A political discussion for Saturday morning! The trouble with the three main parties is that their economic proposals are fairly similar, with a little tinkering round the edges. So the question comes round to which potential chancellor is most competent – strangely Darling has the edge in that battle (but perhaps wouldn’t if Cameron replaced Osborne with Ken Clarke).

    The only party as far as I can see offering the radical economic tightening necessary is UKIP, and it is no surprise that their team are made up of former Thatcherites disillusioned with Cameron’s dithering. The UKIP economic manifesto has just been published in detail, and is well worth a read, not least as alternative to the big three:

    FS: Major was a poor PM but that was largely a result of having to lead a party divided and torn apart by the way they removed his predecessor. And his obsession with the ERM was fatal: once Britain had to withdraw at enormous cost his economic credibility was ruined, even though Ken Clarke did a good job of patching things up in the dying days of his government.

  • 3 The Investor March 27, 2010, 2:26 pm

    @Sam – Lucky you. He was portrayed as very grey by the British satirical press but we found out years later he’d been having some saucy side action with a famous colleague, and his father was in the circus! (I wouldn’t mention any of that, for proper diplomatic reasons). As Faustus says he was dealt a poor hand – a divided, broken and sleazy party with nearly all its heroes having fallen in battle in the decade before. Yet personally I think being booted out of the ERM and the job he and Ken Clarke did of creating a new inflation targeting framework held us in good stead for at least a decade. Under-rated, on balance.

  • 4 The Investor March 27, 2010, 2:30 pm

    @Faustus – On a quick skim I agree with most of the top-line policies in that document, though would have to see how it fits together. Agree it grasps the economic bull (…) by the horns. I couldn’t vote for the baggage that comes with the UKIP though. And to be very petty, that purple and yellow branding looks like the Value food range at Lidl.

    With luck Cameron and Osborne will half-inch all the policies. Agree Cameron and Clarke would be a far stronger proposition. No time to make the swap now though.

  • 5 ermine March 27, 2010, 7:55 pm

    Couldn’t agree more, what is up with George Osborne. Give me Ken Clarke any time, might also tie some of the Euroseptics up in knots too…

    Osborne seems clueless, he has to be prepared to hold a line, not flap about between hard nut and pussycat…

  • 6 Financial Samurai March 30, 2010, 5:26 am

    Faustus, Monevator – Thanks for your insights into Sir John!
    .-= Financial Samurai on: Wealth Is An Illusion Of Happiness =-.

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