16/03/2016 The Papers


16/03/2016

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the winner gallops back to greatness at Cheltenham three years after a

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heart problem threatened to end his racing days. That's all in Sportsday

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in 15 minutes, after the papers. Hello and welcome to our look ahead

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to what the papers will be bringing With me are Isabel Hardman,

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assistant editor of the Spectator, and Ben Chu, economics editor

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of the Independent. Tomorrow's front pages, the FT says

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that George Osborne attempted to sweeten bleak economic news

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in a "safety-first" Budget. Osborne

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sugars the pill is the Daily Telegraph's take, as it reports that

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Britain will become one of the first

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countries in the world to introduce a sugar tax on soft drinks.

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The Independent says that

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the tax did not hide the ?55 billion hole

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in the public finances. The i reports that Jeremy Corbyn lashed

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out at "six years of failures and unfairness

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in his Budget response. A sweet and sour Budget

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is Metro's verdict. The Daily Express says there was

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outrage from Brexit campaigners over what it

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calls a pro-EU Budget. The sugar tax formed part

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of a budget that raided big business to fund giveaways

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for middle-class workers and savers, the Daily Mail calls the budget

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George's Awesome Gamble. This is the eye-catching

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announcement of the Budget. It is a controversial measure but it is

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clearly what he wanted to be on the front pages because it knocks off

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some of the more sour bits of news which were in the Budget today. It

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is also another way for him to suggest he has a kind of moral

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mission as a politician, he wants to help the next generation and look

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his children's generation in the eye. And the Sun don't seem

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massively keen on it in their coverage. I do like their front

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page, not necessarily because I agree with their criticism of the

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sugar tax but they have the metaphor right. A lot of papers are saying a

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spoonful of sugar from the Chancellor, when actually he is

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taking away the sugar, which is what they eat mean with their mockup of

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Dizzee Rascal. They have captured the essence of what he tried to do

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well although they disagree with it. This will raise about ?500 million a

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year at its peak, according to the Treasury's forecasters. It is not

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that material in the scheme of things, in the scheme of these big

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deficits which have opened up as a result of these latest forecasts and

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yet all the papers are leading with it so quite a good result for the

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Chancellor in that respect. People say it has been tried elsewhere and

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hasn't worked. It is interesting because it was introduced in Mexico

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and campaigners on both is sides save either didn't or did work and

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there seemed to be all sorts of bits of evidence that support their

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thesis. I suppose it is one of those things that if it works it is a good

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thing, I am slightly ambivalent towards it if it works. But it

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depends what it means by worked, it won't solve childhood obesity. You

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can't test whether it works in reducing childhood obesity for some

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time in the future. And it is not the only fact. -- factor. The

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question of what the consumption of sugar would have been in the absence

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of this tax is difficult to prove one way or another. That is why you

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get these disagreements about what is happening in Mexico. Moving on to

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the Daily Mail's coverage, again we have the Chancellor dressed up as

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Dizzee Rascal on the Sun, I'm not sure who he is dressed as here. Is

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that some film reference we have missed out on? He is sort of wearing

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a dark bowtie and a velvet looking jacket and is obviously in a casino,

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he has put his chips on... Well, he has his chips ready to play. They

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seem to like the Budget, the Daily Mail, they say it is great for

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Middle England, helping savers, small businesses. The big issue for

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them is taking people out of the 40p rate of tax they have been

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campaigning for but what they want to draw attention to is the

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optimistic looking sons, which is an interesting line for the Daily Mail

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to take given it doesn't really play into any of their big concerns --

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interesting looking sums. They are right in the sense that the surplus

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which the Chancellor now has pencilled in for 2019/20 which is

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what he needs to meet his very, very inflexible fiscal mandate is only

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achieved I unspecified spending cuts and a bit of jiggery-pokery at the

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accountancy when he measures tax. And if the economy deteriorates a

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bit further, which it might well do, that could be blown away further.

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They are right that it is optimistic to believe he will necessarily get

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that surplus at the end of the decade. I thought the strangest

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thing about the Budget was that having talked about how terrible it

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was going to be and how many cuts he was going to make, he referred to

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them in a single paragraph, saying I have asked my colleagues to find

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?3.5 billion. Why would he not set out the detail? Perhaps he hopes he

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will never have to make those cuts and by the next Budget the money

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which has been found in the back of the sofa will have changed again.

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?3.5 billion is a significant sum, and it is from departments that have

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had to cut significantly already, presumably when you start cutting

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you do the easy bits and it gets harder and harder as you go on. And

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people start briefing against you, which if you are George Osborne and

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want to be Conservative leader is not convenient. It is really the

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worst of all Treasury fudges, it will come from an efficiency review

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which won't report until 2018 so really kicked into the long grass.

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And no one believes these are efficiency savings, they are the

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fallback of chancellors who are in a tight spot. They pluck them out of

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the air and hope that people don't notice it. But they have noticed it,

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and it is one of the reasons that the Daily Mail thinks it is a

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gamble. And the Daily Mail doesn't like the sugar tax either, swingeing

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suggests they are not keen. Getting into the politics of the Budget

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speech, the element where George Osborne referred to the Office of

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Budget Responsibility and what it said about EU membership. This was a

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very risky passage in his speech. He quoted the Office of Budget

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Responsibility Orr said he was quoting their warnings about the

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uncertainty and damage to the economy that leaving the EU would

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cause -- or said. They said they did want to make a judgement on this,

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and actually it seems that George Osborne had actually overeat their

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analysis of Brexit. To link the Budget with the EU referendum in

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anyway was always going to be difficult because of the number of

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Conservative back benches who are campaigning to leave but to do it in

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what the Express and the Telegraph are at furious about the pro- EU

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Budget. It is quite a dangerous game he is playing given that he doesn't

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really want the Conservative Party to split over Europe, and also

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doesn't want to cause Tory backbenchers to dislike him either,

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because he is trying to woo them at the same time. And puzzling as well

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because clearly he will have known that they will have gone through the

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full text and worked out whether he is being entirely honest. It is hard

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to know what his calculation is because often he will put things in

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a speech knowing that the sympathetic press will make a speech

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knowing that the sympathetic press will was never going to happen with

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something like OBR warning about Brexit because so much of the press

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is pro- Brexit Orleans very heavily to that sceptical case. It was

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always likely that they were going to do dig into it and rubbish it and

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that is what they have done. Ordinary people don't listen to the

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full Budget speech, they either get a little clip on the news or they

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get it through the papers. So it is hard to see what... How he could

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have thought that it would do anything but just antagonise people

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and antagonise the media by doing what he did, which was spinning it

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quite misleadingly. My understanding is they made reference to the

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short-term uncertainty that Brexit would cause but won't taking a view

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on the longer term. No, they certainly won't recommending one

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position or another -- they certainly won't recommending. They

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think their party is getting very upset about their members

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campaigning quite vigorously to keep written in the EU because David

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Cameron and ministers think it is the best way. There is a frustration

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that Conservative MPs would get that annoyed, that actually the

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government would try to campaign properly rather than being

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lacklustre and saying you can take it or leave it. Of course they are

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going to campaign hard, these ministers say but you can understand

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why George Osborne would want to be a bit careful. Take us to the front

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of the Guardian. Not the main coverage where Osborne's credibility

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gap is their big headline but the other story. Magical thinking was

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the same, but the audience failed to suspend disbelief, I think

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reflecting a lot of the coverage of an reaction to the Budget speech in

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the sense that some of the Magic has worn off George Osborne. Interesting

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looking at the Daily Mail earlier, this time last year, or a bit later,

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in the post election emergency Budget, post- election Budget that

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you had, he got some fantastic coverage not least from the Daily

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Mail saying that he had slain the Dragon of the left. A very different

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message as we have just seen today, taking a big gamble, and I think

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that is reflected in a lot of coverage. The chancellor who

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destroyed the political scene like a colossus only a year ago now seems a

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much more diminished figure, a lot more... A lot of it is because of

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Brexit, because people don't like the stance he has taken in the

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media. A lot of it is because the shine has come off the economy and

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there are all these storm clouds, and perhaps he has not done such a

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fantastic job on that front. And then there was the tax credit

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debacle. All these add together to make his political stock not as high

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as it was relatively recently. Now is not the worst time for him to be

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encountering some scepticism given the leadership contest isn't

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tomorrow. It is much better for him to have the opportunity to counter

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the worries that Conservative MPs really do have about him. Boris

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Johnson is almost in a worse position because he still has to

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prove himself in a serious government job and that is the worry

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that MPs have about him. He has much less time in which to do that.

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George Osborne knows what his weaknesses are and you can see him

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trying to do that in his Budget on social justice, education reform,

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trying to attack his critics who say he is being unfair to people on

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disability benefits. He knows what his weaknesses and he has time to

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try and address them. And it went through the Budget like a rock, this

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next generation. He was talking about the sugar tax as very much

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young children's obesity crisis, and it kept coming up coming up. To be

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honest I'm not sure the reality matches with the rhetoric. We were

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just talking earlier about the things he is doing on housing

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which... The demand side, increasing the ability of people to get

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mortgages and houses, unless you will have a complete revolution on

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the supply side by building more of the things, anything you do on the

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demand side will push up prices, which will hurt young people the

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most. There are many other elements like that which don't match up, it

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will be interesting to see how this message about caring about the Next

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Generation really cuts through. He does push much harder in government

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to get homes built than many of his colleagues, but it is really

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difficult when you have lots of Conservative councils and members

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who are very opposed to further housebuilding, to be able to do

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that. Because you don't want to upset the people living in your

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local parish who are not going to want it next door to them. Taking us

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finally to the FT, not so much their main coverage but a sketch. It is a

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wonderful sketch about George Osborne saying the word oops in his

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Budget and admitting things haven't worked out as intended over the last

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few months. He defines oops over an entire paragraph in George

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Osborne's speech. The paragraph includes the word paradoxical. This

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combination of our revision to nominal GDP produced by global

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inflation have produced this paradoxical result. What he means by

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that is oops, but he also means he is not going to hit one of his main

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targets which is to have debt falling as a share of GDP in the

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year 2015/16 which is a bit of a oops in other ways because why is it

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so important in that single year to have debt falling by a fractional

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amount? And this is one of the criticisms that many economists have

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a of it, which is why did you hem yourself in like that? Why it be so

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economically rigid? On the word oops we are going to draw things to a

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close. Thank you to our guests. Coming up next it is time for

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