The Agincourt Budget
photo: The Guardian
” Cry God for Harry, England, and St. George”: the rallying cry of Henry V before vanquishing the far larger army of France on their own turf, then entering upon the stage of Shakespeare’s play. Chancellor George Osborne, on behalf of the United Kingdom, might claim his own place in history with this year’s barnstorming budget. Very few of the tortuous statistics are required for the honest citizen to be able to appreciate the implications of this budget. Its broad sweep could even be described as a moral victory for a more cleanly functioning capitalist endeavour. Osborne’s practical brilliance and breadth of vision swept before it ever more of the dross which has been backing up inside the workings of an economy left to him in tatters by Labour. When a Tory Government took over, Britain was in an equivalent position to Greece, which today writhes in its own tragic agonies. Not to admire Osborne’s achievement in steering Britain firmly in the opposite direction would take a shamelessly mean, entrenched, idealogical mindset.
Already he has assisted the country to higher living standards than five years ago. Two million new apprenticeships in the first parliament. Three million planned for the second. The venal banks Labour was forced to bale out are now starting to pay back money they owe taxpayers. It will be made a criminal offence to even advise on tax evasion, not just to personally perpetrate what is already illegal. Aggressive tax avoidance will also come under scrutiny. The OBR will safeguard us from potentially fiddling future chancellors, its independence ensuring integrity as an ever more responsive capitalism necessarily evolves…
Manufacturing is growing faster in the north than in the south, returning to its earlier historic traditions, while it brings new technologies to bear upon the burgeoning Northern Powerhouse.
And it is particularly natural for Conservative governments to look towards wider horizons as active participants in global development. New international institutions are planned, with strong new links in Asia and other growing economies. Manufacturing and trade are back on course.
But there is even more to like about this budget than its leaps forward into propelling a re-energised nation. There is the personality of this often misrepresented character, George Osborne, whose features nature appears to have endowed with a semi-permanent sneer. But what if the frequent expression of astonished incredulity is not drawn by the arrogance of possessing a rolls-royce brain, honed by the best educators in the world, but a genuine reflection of his dismay at the calamitous antics that are performed beneath his diligent nose? If Cameron and Osborne sometimes convey an air of senior boys put in charge of juniors who can’t yet be trusted with serious responsibility, can anyone really blame them? It is not only those MPs born with silver spoons in their mouths, but also many far humbler Conservative MPs who must despair at the flimsy calibre of the Opposition. What is more surprising is the impressive way in which those two top Tories constantly reach out to establish with their foes as much agreement and consensus as can be mustered. Osborne’s dry wit is often softened by as much lightness of touch as its piercing accuracy can bear aloft. By comparison, Cameron’s obligatory jousting jibes at Labour often seem uncomfortably self-conscious. It is as though the temperaments of the two big beasts, jointly and passionately engaged in the the heat of nation-building, are out of sinc. with the chill of playground destructiveness imposed upon them.
The two main parties are indeed speaking a different language.
When Ed Balls, on Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show, employed the bully’s classic tactic of initiating a handshake before any clear understanding had first been established between the opposing men, George Osborne held his cool a few telling moments, before deciding he would courteously respond, but on his own terms. With a mannerly clasp of open goodwill, his response was as genuinely sincere as it was invitingly affable. His was the charming gesture, not the bully’s. A leader’s instinct, however modestly displayed.
1,000 new jobs per day. More jobs created in the county of Yorkshire than in the whole of France. By his deeds will they know this steadfast servant of a populous and complex nation..
So will the Chancellor be remembered one day as the strolling toff the people forgot to hate? Might cynical Brits, however grudgingly, take him to their hearts? If he continues as chancellor into a transformed Britain, soon to be the most successful nation in the entire world, Osborne might even become recognised by his countrymen as their newly trusted and familiar institution. And if he delivers the seemingly impossible with such clear-eyed gallantry, we might even add “stupor mundi” to his other accolades. He will, in boldness of patriotism, personify the vanguard of British victory over a sclerotic and bloated European bureaucracy. The EU must follow in his dogged footsteps. What’s not to like?