No doubt your political advisers have mentioned this to you by now, but just in case they haven’t, I thought I’d drop you a line. The UK press are a funny lot. They will insist on making hay out of the budget every year (and let’s be frank, you like the attention), but you can never really tell which bits they’re going to ignore and which bits they’re going to put in the spotlight. Take this hullabaloo over your decision to equalise the regular and old-age tax free allowances. The ‘granny tax‘ (nice work on getting the Telegraph to rail against a Conservative chancellor, by the way). There’s no way you could have seen it coming, right? Right?
Really, George, it is quite simple. Newspapers look for news. Given all the leaks that you and the Lib Dems fed the media over the last couple of weeks during your bargaining, this was the only morsel, juicy or otherwise, that was left. Here, I’ll spell it out for you:
- If it is something new, it is more likely to be in the news (funny, that).
- If it was in the news last week, it is less likely to be in the news this week.
- If a loss is to be imposed on a group of people that are commonly taken to be sacrosanct, it will be the news.
- A pound lost is at least twice as news worthy as a pound gained.
- Furthermore, gains and losses are always described in whichever way looks more miserly. That means:
- Gains are expressed in real terms
- Losses are expressed in nominal terms if they can be and real terms if they must
This whole kerfuffle hits every button on the nose.