THE starting pistol was fired on the General Election this week as George Osborne declared his political stall open for business with his autumn statement.

Time was when March’s annual budget speech would be used as a political battering ram to unlock the door to the voting public, promising tasty tax cuts and wild spending sprees.

That reckless tactic may have been outlawed, but it was hard to ignore the manifesto-toting, rosette-wearing Tory in full blown election mode during Wednesday’s announcements.

Reforming stamp duty will win votes, no doubt about it – by my calculations it may allow me and my girlfriend shift our flat for top whack and save £5,000 on a new place in one fell swoop. Impressive.

What’s more amazing is the Conservatives managed to look like Robin Hood and his merry men in the process by turning up the stamp duty heat on properties costing £900k each – or mansions, to you and me.

And fuel won’t rise this winter. And ISAs can be inherited tax free.

And small businesses will get a rate reprieve.

And, the UK’s lowest paid workers – yes, even journalists – will be hundreds a year better off after the income tax threshold was raised to £10,600.


That’s quite a bounty just six months before a General Election is held.

But what’s most impressive about Mr Osborne’s politicking is he’s simultaneously claiming we’re on the up – UK growth is around three per cent this year – and that we’re still doomed, or at least a bit doomed, if we don’t stick it out with him and Dave.

So the flesh left on the public sector bone needs to be hacked at still further, like a grey slab of monetary kebab attacked blindfolded with an axe.

And public spending needs to diet to near prehistoric levels, we’re told, to get the budget deficit under control.

While we’re on the deficit, it now won’t be smoothed out towards the end of the next parliament, apparently.

And while the national debt bondholders might not be sending the boys round any time soon, it’s still not healthy reading whichever way up you hold your Financial Times.

Those of us with a left leg shorter than the right may like to point out that cutting public spending to pay for cutting taxes seems an odd ploy.

Then again no one seems to pay income tax anyway these days, because they’re either scratching around on a minimum wage, zero hours contract and don’t pay any, or able to afford Jimmy Carr’s accountant and don’t pay any.

So creating a ‘Google Tax’ is the brave new world of corporate taxation we’re told is the answer.

Except being the global, shape shifting digi-morph it is, it’s easy to see attempts to enforce a tax regime against the type of corporation like Google that has become so good at dodging it become simply a standoff between men in expensive suits.

Amid all this electioneering, one thing’s for sure – Labour will relish the fight now it’s clear where the battle lines have been drawn.

Yes, it’s true the Tories are venturing into heady lefty territory with their stamp duty rise on the super rich and crackdown on multinationals.

And the ‘we’ll finish the job’ mantra is alluring, given the recent surge in the UK’s economy.

But with Osborne’s and Cameron’s key message being to tax less and spend less – to conserve with a big C – Ed Miliband and co are at least on a battlefield they can comfortably understand.