Conservative Diary

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Guardian welcomes Osborne's speech but Right is more cautious

Janet Daley and Pete Hoskin have questions after George Osborne's speech but Martin Kettle and Michael White at The Guardian are reassured.

Picture 49 Janet Daley is unimpressed with George Osborne's position on the 50p tax band: "Mr Osborne declared that he disliked the 50p tax rate on higher earners. But he would “not even think” of abolishing it for the time being, given that he would be expecting public sector workers who earned over £18000 per year, to accept a pay freeze. That he said “would be grossly unfair”. What he meant was that it would seem unfair. It would make the Conservative government appear to be doing a favour to the higher paid while it was holding down the earnings of public sector employees. But this is an argument that puts political appearances before economic truth: the 50p tax rate is actually likely to reduce revenue and repel investment. It is positively destructive to the hope of economic recovery. Will the Tories be prepared to fly in the face of economic reality for the sake of placating the public sector unions and the Guardian?"

Coffee House's Spectator thinks Osborne left a lot of questions unanswered: "The Tories were hawking this speech as one which would make their spending restraint plans a great deal clearer, and they're pushing the line that it would save £23 billion over the course of the next Parliament.  Which is welcome, in that every little helps in dealing with the debt crisis.  But it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered.  What about the other £billions upon £billions that will need to be saved? Just how will they cut the Whitehall bureaucracy by a third in four years?"

Martin Kettle in The Guardian: "Osborne's leitmotiv was "We're all in this together". He has to say this because too many people suspect it's not the Tory way. The Tories have to have an ironclad defence against the charge that they will always stand up for the rich against the poor in hard times. It sits uneasily with the priority that the party still attaches to scrapping inheritance tax – and which Osborne merely deferred for a year – most people aren't in that one together with the shadow chancellor and his family. But Osborne said enough about how burdens must be shared in the recession and in the face of government debt, for the overall case to be defensible."

The Guardian's Michael White concludes Osborne has done enough to be sure of keeping his job: "Talk of making Ken Clarke chancellor again if Cameron enters No 10, or even Osborne's dull-but-dogged deputy, Philip Hammond, seem wide of the mark. Dave 'n' George are joined at the hip. But Osborne can take comfort from today's performance – in the knowledge that Clarke shares his view that cuts are best done soonest."

And finally Nick Robinson calls Osborne's speech a "massive electoral gamble": "The Tories' calculated gamble is that they will be rewarded for being open, up-front and honest about the pain that lies ahead. What's more, they have tried to signal that - in the phrase the shadow chancellor used again and again - "we are all in this together". Thus, the right will not get its 50p tax rate cut while others will see their pay frozen. Thus, no-one on less than £18,000 will have their pay frozen, and baby bonds and child tax credits will still be paid to the poorest."

Tim Montgomerie

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