Arrived early in the house this morning to bag my seat for PMQs and the budget, to find that the doorkeepers had placed dozens of chairs out for the expected queues of members. Queues? About a dozen Lib Dems, just two or three Conservatives and Labour. The House of Commons has its collective mind (such as it is) elsewhere.
I was asked by someone in the vote office whether I expected an exciting budget. Anything but. It may go down as the dullest budget in history, because the room for manoeuvre is so small, and the government won’t do what they ought to do which is set out a clear strategy for deficit reduction. I’m sure some rabbit will be pulled out of the proverbial hat, but what a scrawny, emaciated, half-skinned specimen it’s likely to be.
So, what would I like to see? A genuine attempt to set out how expenditure can be trimmed without it affecting front-line services. Re-direction of resources to the key areas for investment. Fairness in the tax system, rather than the expected freeze on allowances which will do nothing to restore the balance between the proportion of tax paid by low wearners and the fat cats. Major reconstruction of the banking sector.
And,for purely parochial reasons, I hope the Chancellor will reject the calls for a swingeing increase in duty on cider. I’m not going to say cider is actually good for you (although it is, of course, rich in vitamin C. Amongst other things). But putting up duty simply to stop teenagers swigging cheap and nasty industrial apple-concentrate based stuff may fatally damage the artisan producers of farmhouse cider and the growers who support them, and I don’t want to see that happen.
There you are, I’m being a cliche “Zummerzet” man again. But if I don’t speak up for scrump, who will?