Budget hysteria grips the nation

NOW that the dust has settled over the budget, it is time for some sober, non-hysterical reaction - something that has been sadly lacking from Britain's politicians and much of the national press over the last few days.

NOW that the dust has settled over the budget, it is time for some sober, non-hysterical reaction - something that has been sadly lacking from Britain's politicians and much of the national press over the last few days.

It has sometimes seemed that everyone is trying so hard to make political points, they have overlooked the facts that underpin Alastair Darling's budget.

The first of these is that this is not a British recession like that of the mid-70s and early 80s. The whole world is affected. Actions by the UK government over the last few years may have contributed in a very small way - but it is nonsense to say they caused it.

And had we had a Conservative government over the last few years, would we really have had less deregulation which most people blame for the bursting of the credit bubble? I think not.

America, run by the right-wing George Bush for the last eight years has not escaped the recession. Neither has France, nor Germany, nor Italy . . . the list goes on.

So given things would have been pretty bad whoever had the tenancy of homes in Downing Street, would things have been very different if George Osborne or Ken Clarke had been at the despatch box?

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Probably - but only around the margins.

The Tories would still have had to crank up the National Debt - to pay unemployment benefit - just like Margaret Thatcher had to in the early 1980s.

Is it better to pay �500 million in unemployment benefit or �600 million to provide work schemes at the end of which there is something concrete? That is debatable point . . . but no one should think that doing nothing is a free option.

But that is a debate that has been drowned out by appalling hand-wringing over the introduction of the 50 per cent tax rate for those earning more than �150,000 a year.

Reading some of the reports of this decision, you might have thought Mr Darling had announced a new sacrifice of first-born children!

It's been portrayed as an attack on “middle Britain” and a betrayal of the country.

It is nothing of the sort - it is a sensible reaction to the current crisis and many people would like to see the rate increased higher!

By any standards �150,000 is not a “middle income.” Anyone who earns that kind of salary is very well off indeed and if they aren't able to maintain an acceptable standard then they have very extravagant tastes.

Mr Darling said only one per cent of the population earn more than �150,000 a year. He has the figures so should know, but I'd stake my reputation that far less than one per cent of the population of Ipswich or Suffolk as a whole earn anywhere near that amount.

At times of austerity there is nothing wrong with getting the super-rich to pay more tax to improve the economy as a whole.

Is it really right to have the highest tax rate set at just �37,400? Is it right that a head of year at your local comprehensive school pays tax at the same rate as Fred Goodwin on his �600,000 a year pension?

Frankly you don't have to be a fully-paid up member of the Socialist Workers' Party to think that the rich should pay more tax - it's just a matter of fairness.

David Cameron has said little about the 50 per cent tax rate - unlike some right-wing newspapers and London mayor Boris Johnson who seems convinced all Britain's “wealth creators” will up sticks and move out of the country.

Mr Cameron would do well to continue pussyfooting around the issue. After all the wealthy elite will probably vote for him anyway!