Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tories must "crowd source" during the budget

So, Labourlist is reporting that the Budget will be announced today as being on March 24th which pretty much means a May 6th poll and Gordon will scuttle off to see Brenda not long after Darling sits down.

As I said a few weeks ago, the Budget will effectively be Labour Manifesto, and its timing will be designed, I have no doubt, to give them maximum coverage in all the "pull-outs the next day that assess whether you're going to be richer or poorer.

As we all know, Labour budgets are classic examples of the art of obfuscation and they usually unravel within days as people get a chance to read over the small print. The problem is, no one apart of political nerds usually knows about the cons because its buried in the back pages, or only appears in papers that few read, as compared to say the daily freesheets.

The gamble with the budget is clear. Take advantage of free coverage in the immediate aftermath knowing that for many it will be the only bit of politics they actually pay attention to in the run up to the election because they just can't get away from it even in the free press.

As I said last week, expect a lot of eye-catching moves that will get the papers printing positive stories to make everyone feel fluffy. I think Labour will propose an Inheritance Tax threshold increase for start, probably to a halfway point like £500,000 which would work out to a million for married couples and civil partners. They're going to triangulate the Tory policy saying their helping the many not just the few.

He's going to freeze or perhaps even cut the basic level of income tax and then try to Svengali trick of increasing other taxes elsewhere that we won't notice to offset it - probably a freeze in tax thresholds so we have a bit of fiscal drag. The Labour playbook is one that is repeated time and again, why should we expect anything different. A cut or even a freeze will force the Tories hand.

There will be widespread and deliberately vague talk about "efficiency savings" already achieved and totally made-up figures about what else is too come. Numbers like £20bn will be plucked out of the air and compared to made-up Tory figures saying if they followed them it would ruin the economy - even though it's already ruined.

What Osborne and the Tory frontbench have to do, along with the back office staff, whilst Darling is speaking, is monitor the social media feeds from the likes of Twitter and those live blogging the event. Back when Brown did his 10p tax trick, it was spotted by me and others whilst Brown was speaking, but the response failed to notice it.

Osborne et al need to be wired up. Blackberrries and other mobile device need to be fully charged and if they believe in the so-called "open source wisdom of crowds" (aka crowd sourcing) they need to be ready to tap into it and destroy the budget before the press begins to wet their inks.

It's the Tories one and only chance to change the Budget narrative that Brown and Darling want. If they fuck it up, it will set the start of the official campaign back. They need to win the media narrative otherwise they'll be fighting from behind.

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