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4/10 Tests for the Autumn Statement: Will "Osbrowne" simplify or complicate the economy?

By Tim Montgomerie
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It's not often Janet Daley and John Rentoul agree but they did yesterday. Their common complaint was George Osborne's Brownian tinkering with the economy.

John Rentoul in The Independent on Sunday:

"A few more schemes, complications and subsidies and pretty soon I shall have to go away and rethink my life. I had thought that Gordon Brown was a bad Chancellor because he fiddled with the tax system, finding another few hundred million down the back of a refurbished Treasury armoire for footling schemes designed to secure a day's headlines; complicated things so no one could work out why what he had just said was rubbish even though it obviously was; and invented subsidies, tax reliefs and distortions that turned out to be counter-productive. At this rate, though, we may have to conclude that the fault lay not with Brown's personality but with the Treasury or, worse, with contemporary politics. Because George Osborne is up to the same silly, self-defeating tricks."

Janet Daley in The Sunday Telegraph:

"Gosh, what a parcel of goodies George Osborne is about to present to us in his Autumn Statement. Already promised last week were a government programme to underwrite the mortgages of first-time buyers, as well as a nifty £200  million “green deal” to encourage families to insulate their homes. Then there was a billion-pound subsidy to employers who give young people work experience that will lead to jobs. And who knows what more bounty is to follow in the speech itself? Now where have I seen the like of this beneficence before? Oh yes – it was under Gordon Brown. As Chancellor (and then later when he was Prime Minister, through his half-hearted proxy Alistair Darling), Mr Brown would stand at the Dispatch Box and shower us with government spending projects. There were injections of cash into house-building, and grants for scientific research, and God knows how many initiatives to create “training” and engineering apprenticeships. All that micro-management: new “start-up” schemes and “one-stop shop” outreach services funded by this department and that department, and then re-packaged and re-announced so that they sounded less tired and predictable."

Janet Ashley joins the chorus in today's Guardian:

"Subsidising firms to employ young people for six months is a smaller and borrowed version of Labour's scheme. Pressuring pension funds to invest in infrastructure projects is an updated coalition response to the controversial New Labour private finance initiative. Quantitative easing, memorably described by Osborne in opposition as a desperate government's last resort, and now credit easing, follows on from Labour thinking."

Tomorrow I'll be looking for Osborne to find a bit of that spirit of 2005 when he wanted a simpler tax system and government. Lord Lawson used to take pride in abolishing a tax in each and every budget. He would be a good model for the Chancellor to follow.

> Test 5 at 2pm: Will Osborne bring some sense to environmental policies?


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