Today, George, you delivered your first budget as a Tory chancellor. Those who voted for you – the people who believed Conservatism was about a hand up, not a hand out and who run their own businesses – are now sitting shellshocked, wondering how they could have been so utterly gullible. They should have realised that the die is cast at prep school when the scions of the seriously wealthy first realise the earth is theirs, their pals’ and everything in it.
Thanks to you, they’re instantly around £2,000 a year worse off. That’s because they always believed Tories thought owner-managed businesses were a good thing. How wrong they were. As you dish out Corporation Tax and Inheritance Tax cuts to your City pals, the changes in dividend taxation means small business people feel the pain. Overnight, they go from getting taxed once, through Corporation Tax, to twice; once corporately and then again personally. And they’re the lucky ones.
Many of them got a full grant for a university education; one of the most reliable ways of getting up and out of the swamp. Today, they wouldn’t be able to afford it. No more grants; it’s loans instead. If they believed that education was about more than landing the plummiest job (no old boy network for them), they’d be screwed today.
But that’s OK. A university education only makes the plebs uppity. They should know their place, shouldn’t they, George?
They’ll have come out of university and rather than enjoying a gap yah or an internship, they’ll have got a job. A shitty, badly-paid job (no old boy network, remember?) But they’ll have worked hard at it and clawed their way up a bit. And worked hard at the next one too. Then the next. And the next. And that’s fine, because they knew that no one could take what they achieved away. Until today.
This latest tax grab on those who dared to believe that they could make a go of running their own businesses is the worst. Not because it instantly removes a chunk of their incomes, but because of what it means.
It may look, from the outside, as though they’re doing alright. And, compared with most, they are. But it’s precarious and a constant struggle. They know that next month’s mortgage payment depends on capricious clients, unstable markets, luck and their own climb-that-bloody-hill determination. There’s no safety net, no employer to help out with sick pay, holiday pay, pension provision or benefits. That’s fine too – their choice and they’re used to it.
But George, you and your pals have family fortunes and trust funds that mean you’re able to make mistakes. People like them don’t and can’t.
But even that’s fine too. they don’t want help from you or a Ma-Pa corporation. But what they do want is some acknowledgement that your world view – big houses, Pimms on the terrace and a maid to serve it – and theirs, are very very different. And they want a little certainty; that someone like you can’t simply walk up, whack them round the head with a tax-filled sock and take a chunk of their income away.
George, you talk a lot about aspiration. Plenty of people aspire and have been aspiring since they started. But it’s bloody hard to keep at it when someone who’ll inherit a few million stamps their handmade Lobb boot on their head every time they start trying to get up.
You talked today about a level playing field. But you’ve made it clear that means the rest of us doffing our caps as we cut the grass, not being allowed onto the wicket to play the game.
Aspiration. Tonight there are plenty of people thinking you don’t have a bloody clue what it really means.