George Osborne delivered his eighth Budget this week. On Thursday 17th March, early birds from across the business community flocked to Edelman’s London office for a Budget Breakfast chaired by Public Affairs MD Gurpreet Brar. The Institute of Directors’ Simon Walker, Financial Times Political Editor George Parker, Treasury Select Committee member & Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and Shadow International Development Secretary Diane Abbott lined up to give their view on whether the Chancellor had succeeded in his attempt to deliver a Budget “for the next generation”.
Of course, Budgets are highly political events and this year’s was no exception. The vote on whether Britain will remain part of the European Union is looming and the Chancellor had one eye on this, even as the upcoming Conservative leadership election intruded on the periphery of his vision. His Prime Minister instructed him to “play it safe” – advice he won’t have had any trouble heeding, lest he put his own backbenchers off supporting him when it comes to the succession.
But did he succeed? Simon Walker argued that business was a winner from the Budget – with measures like the cut in capital gains tax “more than we would have dared asked for” – and even Diane Abbott acknowledged that, for 48 hours at least, the Chancellor looked like a winner. But she anticipated the Budget quickly unravelling; and Jacob Rees-Mogg warned of trouble to come over the sugar tax on soft drinks companies – on which he threatened to rebel – as well as disquiet over cuts for benefits to the disabled.
George Parker related that one of Mr Osborne’s aides was heard to say “Job done”; but the devil of a Budget is often in the detail and the press and politicians will be picking over it in the days to come.
See highlights from the event below.