With the week dominated by the Budget announcements, it was difficult to avoid seeing the Chancellor’s centrepiece economic speech as an extended electoral pitch.
While avoiding what he dismissively called “giveaways” and “gimmicks” in the Budget, George Osborne made a number of significant overtures to key constituencies, including further pensions liberalisation.
There was also an announcement aimed at shoring up the party’s flagship home ownership policy, Help to Buy, with a new ISA designed to boost savings towards a first-time house purchase.
On the same theme, the Daily Mail has reported, following earlier conjecture, that the Conservative Manifesto will contain a “radical” extension of the Right to Buy, envisaged as a “big doorstep offer”.
The paper said that the Conservatives were also contemplating a plan to force local authorities “to sell large, expensive council homes in order to fund higher numbers of cheaper properties”.
There was also much talk in the right-wing press about a potential cut to Inheritance Tax. While this was not contained in the March 2015 Red Box, Mr Osborne did announce a review into the avoidance of the tax via deeds of variation – accompanied by a personal dig at Labour Leader Ed Miliband over his own tax affairs.
However, it has been reported that the Conservative Manifesto could include changes that would permit some parents to leave their children homes worth up to £1m without paying Inheritance Tax – a measure desired by the party prior to the previous election but blocked by the Liberal Democrats.
The change would be achieved through the institution of a new tax-free band worth some £175,000 per person specifically for family homes or main residences passed on to a direct descendant.
This week, Labour continued its focus on trumpeting its existing policy offer, as Leader Ed Miliband responded to the Budget with a comprehensive attack on the Conservatives’ style of government.
Mr Miliband continued his campaigning focus on the NHS, highlighting the absence of mentions it had received in the speech and arguing that this was indicative of a precarious future for the health service under his rivals.
Elsewhere, Shadow Infrastructure Minister Lord Adonis published a report arguing in favour of the demolition of London council estates in favour of new saleable housing developments built at higher densities. Existing tenants would be housed in new properties on the same sites. The Financial Times has framed this suggestion as an answer to the Conservatives’ overtures on Right to Buy.
The Liberal Democrats attempted to strike out on their own this week in the shadow of the Budget, by very pointedly holding a separate event in which Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander presented his own set of economic policies for the future.
Having appeared for a photocall in which he waved aloft his very own special yellow briefcase for the press, Mr Alexander took to the Dispatch Box, where he was met with a barrage of heckling from Opposition figures including an excitable Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne.
Mr Alexander pledged that the Liberal Democrats would deliver an alternative deficit reduction plan that would follow a path between those of the other parties.
He said: “The Lib Dems would aim to eliminate the deficit by 2017/18 through £30bn of spending cuts and tax rises - the same date as the Conservatives. But they would net an extra £6bn from tax evaders - and an extra £6bn in tax rises on the better-off, including a "mansion tax" on high value properties, enabling them to cut less from departmental budgets”.
Elsewhere, Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie emphasised his party’s plans for the NHS, calculating that the Scottish health service would receive an extra £800m as a result.
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.