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From the campaign trail: Pre-Budget rhetoric

9 March 2015

The buzz in the air was all about the Budget today, with major speeches from senior figures in each of the three mainstream parties seeking to set out a distinctive and compelling take on the UK’s economic big picture.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls made perhaps the biggest splash of the day with a dramatic speech to accompany a new analysis of his opposite number’s plans.

Mr Balls said that his calculations showed the Conservatives would make some £70bn of cuts in the coming Parliament, far exceeding the £30bn figure cited by the party’s leadership. He claimed that this would result in either cuts of a scale that would render entire Government departments unviable, or else would lead to reductions in NHS spending.

Seeking to link the Budget to his own party’s pre-election promises for the health service, Mr Balls raised the suggestion that Tory plans could lead to charging for NHS services.

This was teamed with an insistence that Labour, in contrast, occupied the centre ground of contemporary British politics, defined against an “extreme and risky plan” of “close-to-impossible” cuts intended by the Conservatives.

The theme of risk was similarly invoked later in the day by the Prime Minister, during a lengthy introduction to an announcement of proposals for more free schools.

David Cameron told his own audience that the Conservatives were seeking to provide “security at every stage of your life”, with the aim of making voters’ lives feel “stable” and “built to last”.

This emphasis on certainty and durability seems calculated to fit with the incessant campaigning rhetoric from his party about its “long-term economic plan”.

However, it was combined with advocacy of an increase in tax thresholds for both the lowest earners and those subject to the 40p rate, signalling that the Conservatives have not abandoned the Thatcherite desire to see families “get on in life” and keep “more of their own money to spend as they choose”.

Meanwhile, in the yellow corner, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his colleague Business Secretary Vince Cable were also doing the rounds to promote their own vision for a British economy that could, in their view, become the biggest in Europe by 2035.

For the minor Coalition party, it was all about modesty of scope in the Budget. In line with the language used throughout much of the latter Coalition period, the leaders emphasised their role in keeping the Conservatives in check, with Dr Cable declaring himself in favour of a Budget free of major giveaways.

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Anna Haswell, Senior Political Analyst and Content Marketer
Anna Haswell
Senior Political Analyst and Content Marketer

As Senior Political Analyst at DeHavilland, Anna Haswell leads on financial services policy, as well as covering media issues. In her capacity as Content Marketer, she is also responsible for DeHavilland's briefings and analysis output, working across teams to ensure relevant messages reach current and prospective clients alike. She is a graduate of the University of Oxford and Goldsmiths, University of London.