The TRG: The Home of ‘One Nation Conservatism’

David Cowan

There are many strands of thought which flow through the Conservative Party’s rich history and have contributed to it throughout the centuries, but none have done as much to define it as One Nation Conservatism – and it has found its home in the Tory Reform Group for over thirty years.

One Nation Conservatism can trace its roots back to Edmund Burke, who emphasised the organic nature of society and its reliance on social and political institutions, and Benjamin Disraeli, who imbibed this vision with a social conscience. Since then it has influenced many of the party’s greatest statesmen, such as Lord Randolph Churchill, Stanley Baldwin, Winston Churchill, R.A. Butler, and Harold Macmillan. As a political compass, rather than a rigid set of rules, One Nation Conservatism helped pave the way for Britain’s transition towards embracing the welfare state and universal suffrage without compromising the fundamental social and political institutions our society depends upon.

When the TRG was founded as the modern home of One Nation Conservatism, Peter Walker put it very well when he said ‘My objective as a Tory was to get the correct balance between efficiency and compassion. The trouble with compassion devoid of efficiency was that it never provided the means to exercise compassion. The trouble with efficiency devoid of compassion was that it created a society so divisive that efficiency itself was destroyed’.

During Margaret Thatcher’s premiership the TRG lived up to this mission by supporting the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, with its 1976 publication supporting the sale of council houses to tenants; Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 austerity budget; Michael Heseltine’s Enterprise Zones and Development Corporations; and Ken Clarke’s budgets which helped deliver low debt, low inflation, and high growth. It was crucial that the failed socialist experiment be scrapped without undermining the state’s ability to help the most vulnerable in society.

Their example has continued to inspire senior Conservative figures, including both David Cameron and Boris Johnson! Today in government One Nation Conservatives are helping deliver the Coalition’s much needed public services reforms at a time when the finances are once more in dire straits because of Labour misrule. As a party we are now having a vibrant and dynamic debate about how to change the state so that it is more economically efficient and more socially compassionate. In this exciting political climate it is the Student Tory Reform Group’s aim is to inspire the next generation of Conservatives to explore the One Nation tradition and to take it into the future so the vision of Burke and Disraeli can live on.

If you want to learn more about STRG or get involved then please feel free to join our Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/studenttrg/, follow us on Twitter at @ToryReformGroup, or email me at student@trg.org.uk. You are also more than welcome to come to our events later this year, which includes our Student Reception at this year’s Party Conference in October and our Autumn Reception with Michael Heseltine in November.

This article was originally published on Conservatives Student.

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The Conservative Party needs a radical European vision

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David Cowan

The Conservatives’ European policy is settled. If David Cameron wins a majority at the next General Election, his government will hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union by 2017. Who knows what luck the Prime Minister will have with his rengotiation strategy, or how it will play out when Tories are campaigning against each other over whether or not we are better off out. Your guess is as good as mine. But Labour and the Liberal Democrats are on the back foot, and the grassroots love Mr. Cameron - well, dislike him less - for it.

But there is one thing people, especially Europhobes, have tended not to think seriously about. What if the British people vote to stay in the EU? Most Better Off Out-ers just assume that given the chance they will vote to leave. What if they don’t? We would be stuck with the status quo of ‘ever closer union’. The Europhobic right would totally collapse. UKIP would lose their raison d’etre. Britain’s membership of the EU would be ‘case closed’ for decades, much like it was after the 1975 referendum.Where would this leave the Conservative Party?

For so many years the Conservatives have been defined by a strong hostility towards the EU which has on occasion come close to borderline hysteria. Memories of Winston Churchill’s speeches in favour of a ‘United Europe’ (though his own view of Britain’s role in such an entity is still somewhat ambiguous), the Conservatives’ key role in shaping many fundamental European institutions, are now just an old, jaded memory which has failed to capture the imagination of a new generation of Conservatives.

This has left the Party very ill-prepared for the eventuality of the British people rejecting withdrawal from the EU. So far the Tory case for staying in the EU has been negative and timid in that the emphasis has been on reclaiming powers and reversing changes rather than improving and reforming institutional structures. If we want to be in a solid position should the Eurosceptic argument be defeated at the ballot box then they must have a positive vision for Britain’s future in Europe.

What would such a vision look like? The key principles at its heart must be economic and political liberty. A positive Conservative vision for EU reform has to fight for a less regulated, protectionist, subsidised, and taxed single market which can compete in the global economy and credibly champion global free trade as the best means of raising the most deprived countries in the world out of poverty. Complementing this would be a serious overhaul of EU structures based on a more decentralised and democratic model which allows competition and innovation to flourish through the people, instead of stagnation and decline as has been the case under the current centralised and bureaucratic model.

If the Conservatives can help forge a new EU which is a community of nations instead of a grandiose federal project, then it can be a more effective force for the pursuit of global peace and prosperity by demonstrating that moderate multilateral means can successfully deliver liberal ends.

It has become abundantly clear that the status quo will not do and ‘ever closer union’ towards a bureaucratic super-state does not bear thinking about. If the British people choose to reject the idea of leaving the EU then the Conservatives must be ready to face the challenge of reforming the EU towards a more liberal, decentralised, and democratic model. But this can only be done when Conservatives are ready to speak out and propose a radical European vision for the 21st century.

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Britain’s Countryside cannot be sacrificed on the altar of Economic Efficiency

David Cowan 12.20pm

Confusion and muddle in economic policy has plunged to new depths as cabinet talks start to focus on a new ‘Plan A plus plus plus’ – the latest in a long series of botched attempts to breathe new life into the coalition’s growth plan.

Coalition stalemate over economic policy has repeatedly caused Tories on the backbenches, like Liam Fox and David Davis, to criticise the lack of more radical supply-side reform. While it is certainly true that economic policy has to be re-orientated away towards greater supply-side reform in order to get Britain out of this double dip recession, there are limits on how radical the coalition can be. So let us stand back for a moment.

Many have started to call for growth with dwindling regard for the social and environmental costs, with the biggest victim being Cameron’s pledge to protect the environment. This begs the question of whether Tories should prioritise radical policies for growth over the British countryside.

Toryism has always had a flexible relationship with economic theory and as a result has always struggled with it as well. That is because Toryism is in essence a belief in preserving the social ecology and organic constitution of Britain. Since its roots in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as the defender of the landed interest, which it believed to be the absolute bedrock of Britain’s society and constitution, Toryism has been closely tied with the defence of the British countryside. It is this role which has become a defining feature of Toryism during the current age of utilitarianism which has consistently put economic efficiency before the preservation of the countryside.

I would define utilitarianism, in its broadest sense, as a political viewpoint which sees economic efficiency as its primary objective, with no regard for tradition, morality or beauty. It is a viewpoint which has come to define both the extreme individualism of liberal laissez-faire as well as the extreme collectivism of socialist central planning. Both have done devastating harm to Britain’s countryside which has only been effectively checked by the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 – it is an institution that must be protected by modern Toryism.

We would do well to remember this as the coalition starts to target its renewed reforming zeal at Britain’s greenbelts yet again in order to boost economic performance at the expense of the traditional way of life of so many British rural communities.

Nick Boles, the planning minister charged with this new assault on the British countryside, has even gone so far as to unfairly label defenders of the countryside as ‘hysterical, scare- mongering latter-day Luddites’. This just goes to show how little he understands the great popular attachment felt for the countryside and the damage that would be done by undermining the greenbelts.

It is not for so-called experts in Whitehall to decide whether a place is worthy of conservation. It is for local communities to protect and defend a place they think beautiful because it is their home. This is a strong example of how local loyalty to a place can and should trump the modern utilitarian’s drive for economic efficiency. Preserving the countryside is not just a hobby for tree-huggers but about defending a way of life.

During these tough economic times it is of course important that the coalition gets to grips with the problem of growth and start to focus on rigorous supply-side reform but there must be limits. Tories simply cannot allow Britain’s countryside to be sacrificed on the altar of economic efficiency, and must instead listen to their environmental, as well as their social conscience when addressing today’s economic woes.

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The Tories Must Not Dither Over Immigration

David Cowan 2.51pm

Immigration is one of those topics politicians would rather avoid. But last Saturday in the Daily Mail, Nicholas Soames, a TRG patron, co-wrote an article with the Labour MP Frank Field about the dangers of current levels of immigration.

Their concerns centre on the pressures of large scale immigration on social services - and housing in particular. The population is set to increase from 62.3 million to a staggering 70 million over the next fifteen years.

The immigration debate is often reduced to a mundane battle of statistics. Though just focusing on the economic aspect of immigration does not do nearly enough justice to the scale of the problem.

The non-economic arguments are primarily social and cultural, which is why it has been such an emotive issue for so many years. It is also why politicians are reluctant to address it out of a fear of alienating the BME (black and minority ethnic) electorate. Yet the problem of socially fragmented and culturally segregated communities arising from such rapid levels of immigration has to be addressed.

Unfortunately there are many examples that demonstrate how this social fragmentation and cultural segregation is happening. In Tower Hamlets, women who refuse to wear a veil frequently receive death threats, while homosexuals are openly attacked in the streets. Sharia courts are operating across the country despite the fact that our laws do not allow special privileges to be granted to any one group over another. Even so-called ‘honour killings’ are on the increase, according to the Guardian. We should also not forget that the perpetrators of the 7/7 atrocities were born and bred in Britain and that the problem of home-grown Islamist extremism is still very much with us.

All that notwithstanding, many immigrants are decent, hardworking people just trying to make a living for themselves and their families in a new country. Britain should be a welcoming and tolerant country in which people can come to work and live in peace.

But there is a point at which mass immigration does become socially unsustainable. As David Cameron said in a speech last year:

“Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream.  We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.  We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.”

The Tories must offer that vision. To take pride in Britain as a country is not just a subjective whim, as valueless as the postmodernist doctrine of state multiculturalism - or rather cultural relativism as it should really be called. To take pride in one’s country is an objective expression of a sense of belonging and a love for a place we call home.

Yet patriotism has been hijacked by nationalist extremists and dismissed as an embarrassment by the leftist intelligentsia. Tories must separate patriotism from the vile doctrine of nationalism in order to make a robust case for more socially sustainable levels of immigration. No one has done that more successfully than the self-declared ‘Tory Anarchist’ George Orwell, whose definition of patriotism in ‘Notes on Nationalism’ probably cannot be beaten:

“By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life. A patriot believes this country to be the best place in the world for himself but has no wish to force his ideas on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally.”

That is how Tories must defend British patriotism. After all, it is for this very reason why Benjamin Disraeli is one of the greatest figures in the Conservative party’s history. As Lord Salisbury said of Disraeli, “Zeal for the greatness of England was the passion of his life”. This instinct goes to the very heart of Toryism, which is in character a social and political doctrine rooted in the patriotic experience, not in the abstraction of economic theory.

Britain has historically proven herself very capable of absorbing different groups. But as Nicholas Soames and Frank Field have rightly said, we are now facing the biggest wave of immigration for hundreds of years. It is in the face of this challenge that Tories should make a stand and defend what it means to be British and support social cohesion. An effective process of social cohesion can only take place when immigration has reached socially sustainable levels and the misguided project of state multiculturalism has been dismantled.

If today’s Tory reformers fail to succeed in this task then we will only see the continued social fragmentation and cultural segregation of British communities.

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George Osborne’s credit is running out

David Cowan 2.00pm

The Osborne brand has been heavily devalued since George Osborne’s politically disastrous budget. It initiated the ‘omnishambles’ of the past few months which was then followed by a ridiculously long set of U-turns over taxes on pasties, caravans, charities, heritage, and petrol. After weeks of government ministers loyally defending the budget these policies were swiftly and unceremoniously ditched with little or no notice. Often these announcements came within days of each other with the consequence that loyal ministers and MPs had been made to look incredibly foolish.

Just think of Chloe Smith on Newsnight after George Osborne announced that the autumn increase in fuel duty would not go ahead. Even the Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening – a loyal Osbornite by all accounts – was kept in the dark about the change of policy. The U-turn over fuel duty was perhaps the most misjudged as it still managed to backfire on George Osborne as that very same morning Ed Balls had called for such a change of direction in The Sun. As a result it looked more like a victory for Ed Balls and another wobble from George Osborne. Many in the Conservative party now see him as “too damaged” to be a credible successor to David Cameron.

Last week Osborne made his bid to regain some of his credibility as de facto Chief Strategist of the Conservative party with a provocative interview in The Spectator where he claimed that Labour aides were “clearly involved” in the Libor scandal, but without mentioning names. When it resulted in a clash in the House of Commons debate that very same day Ed Balls exclaimed “He has impugned my integrity in The Spectator!” It was a very partisan performance delivered in order to boost Conservative MPs’ confidence in him. George Osborne may appear to have done this by securing a parliamentary inquiry into the banking industry, instead of a judicial one, which will undoubtedly question Ed Balls and the other architects of the faulty regulatory system which helped precipitate the financial crisis in 2008.

But to many Conservatives the parliamentary exchange between George Osborne and Ed Balls looked like a sordid display of petty politics- not statesmanship. While it is of course important that Ed Balls et al are made accountable for their disastrous policies, there is still a feeling that George Osborne is far too focused on playing politics instead of doing his job. If this perception dominates how the electorate see him at a time when Britain has gone into a double-dip recession, the Eurozone crisis is engulfing the continent, 2.61 million people still unemployed, and the Bank of England printing money like there is no tomorrow, then the Osborne brand will continue to decline in value.

Within the wider context of the various deficiencies in George Osborne’s economic and financial policies, this run on his credibility is only going to continue. His plan for growth is far too heavily dependent on a policy of cheap credit from the Bank of England and fiscal stimulus from the Treasury (see my article on last year’s Autumn Statement) and clearly is not working. Another problem is that his deficit reduction plan has so far been implemented through tax rises while spending cuts will not actually start to bite until the eve of the next general election and will continue into the next parliament. It is now very likely that on polling day in 2015 the electorate will still be feeling the pinch of meagre growth, rising cost of living, and harsher spending cuts.

A wealth of radical policies for growth has come from across centre-right politics. Conservative MPs have set up groups like the Free Enterprise Group, 2020 Conservatives and The Growth Factory in order to formulate new policies to liberalise the economy. Numerous think tanks have delivered fascinating reports on boosting growth, like the Institute of Economic Affairs’ ‘Sharper Axes, Lower Taxes’, the Centre for Policy Studies’ ‘Small is Best’ publication and helpful infotoon, and the TaxPayers’ Alliance’s 2020 Tax Commission Report. They are all calling for the same spirit of Tory radicalism which has been advanced by Michael Gove and Iain Duncan-Smith, with a clear economic plan based on larger spending cuts, lower taxes, deregulation and sound money.

It is of course difficult for Osborne to recalibrate his economic and financial policies more firmly in this direction because of the Liberal Democrats. But this then begs the question of what happened to ‘Orange Book liberalism’ which was so superbly articulated by David Laws? The coalition seems to baulk at every opportunity of providing a more robust plan for growth. Instead we have seen streams of micro-initiatives put forward while radical policies, like the Beecroft Report’s proposal for making it easier for employers to hire and fire employees, get side-lined. Policy making has become a zero-sum game in which decisions are prevented from happening whilst civil servants are left to their own devices with disastrous consequences, like in this year’s budget. The coalition simply cannot function without an effective policy machine with both parties contributing to new economic radicalism.

George Osborne is undeniably a political animal. He has had numerous political coups like in 2007 when his inheritance tax cut pledge helped spook Brown into bottling the election, but there is a serious job to be done. If we are going to see an effective plan for growth based on spending cuts, lower taxes, deregulation and sound money which has the support of both coalition parties then George Osborne has to focus, otherwise the blood of electoral failure in 2015 will be on his hands.

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Is David Cameron jumping the Tory electoral gun on welfare reform?

David Cowan 10.16am

Occasionally, among the static noise of 24-hour news, there comes a speech that matters. Yesterday’s by David Cameron, on welfare reform, was one of them.

The Government has already made good progress towards a better welfare state with the Universal Credit, Work Programme and the £26,000 benefits cap. But we now know that the Prime Minister and Conservative ministers have only just begun.

David Cameron is hitting back against the “entitlement culture”, which has gravely undermined a sense of “collective responsibility” that used to be so strong. It is at the heart of the ‘big society’ project to rejuvenate civil society. It is also absolutely spot on. If the state constantly intervenes in our lives instead of allowing us to live as individuals and communities, taking responsibility for our own actions, then it creates a client state of automatons.

There is already a ‘welfare gap’ between those who choose not to work and those who work and save for their family’s future. This is not because everyone on benefits is workshy but because of the perverse incentives produced by an overcomplicated system which simply isn’t working.

David Cameron is entering a potentially transformative phase in his premiership. This is not the end of ‘compassionate conservatism’, rather it is a reaffirmation of it. Instead of the lazy assumption that poverty is a problem solved by income redistribution, we are offered a more nuanced understanding. Mr Cameron highlighted the real causes of poverty, such as drug addiction, family breakdown, poor education and debt. Most importantly, he articulated the most effective solution to the problem:

"Compassion isn’t measured out in benefit cheques - it’s in the chances you give people…the chance to get a job, to get on, to get that sense of achievement that only comes from doing a hard day’s work for a proper day’s pay.

That’s what our reforms are all about. Transforming lives. Helping people walk taller.”

Elsewhere in the speech, the ‘Wisconsin model’ established during President Clinton’s administration in the US offered some inspiration: it proposes a two-year time limit on benefits, and for people receiving benefits to carry out full-time community work.

Mr Cameron also spoke about how couples on benefits were having children they obviously could not afford without state support. He proposed that income support should be stopped and additional child benefit limited for families with more than three children. Tougher measures on housing were also mooted, such as lowering the housing benefit cap further and stopping it completely for under-25s.

Deeper cuts to welfare budgets should not come as a surprise. George Osborne has already announced, in last year’s Autumn Statement, two more years of cuts and, in his Budget speech this year, the need for £10 billion of further savings from welfare by 2016 (to be outlined in the next Spending Review).

Political considerations are crucial. Downing Street’s director of strategy, Andrew Cooper, is largely responsible for the policy - his polling research showing that the benefit cap was among the Government’s more popular policies. It can prove how welfare reform is a ‘wedge issue’ on which both the Lib Dems and Labour are viewed as out of touch with the ‘striving classes’. Tougher welfare reform has now become the centrepiece of Conservative differentiation.

David Cameron has crafted a long-term vision for welfare reform that extends beyond this Parliament and establishes the groundwork for the Conservative party’s general election campaign in 2015. Undoubtedly his thinking his correct and needed but it should be some cause for concern that the coalition partners are distancing themselves to such an extent three years out from that election. The coalition needs a renewed unifying mission that goes beyond deficit reduction. A new Coalition Agreement, formulated by people such as David Laws, is what is needed now, not ‘differentiation’.

Mr Cameron’s speech is precisely what the Conservatives need to help them win in 2015. But it may have come a bit too early.

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A One Nation defence of the Church of England

David Cowan 6.01am

At the beginning of Holy Week this year, David Cameron made another foray into religious affairs. It was a rare glimpse of that elusive aspect of the Prime Minister’s character - his Christian faith.

Mr Cameron’s most significant defence of Christianity to date was during the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible (see Jack’s and Daniel’s comments). He claimed:

"Britain is a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so… the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today."

It is Christianity’s conceptualisation of the nation that is at the heart of Mr Cameron’s moral code. This is evident in his vision for a ‘Big Society’, where responsibility, duty and community are most valued. And of course the institution that upholds the Christian faith and defends these values is the Church of England.

The local church is often at the heart of our communities. It provides spiritual support as well as voluntary assistance to charities, social enterprises and, importantly, schools.

The Church of England currently educates one million children in 4,800 schools, making it the biggest single provider of education in this country. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has reaffirmed the Conservative party’s commitment to supporting faith schools by urging the Church to run more academies.

Throughout the Conservative party’s long history, the defence of the established Church has been second nature. Christian morality has been a significant guide for many One Nation Conservatives, including Harold Macmillan, who said:

"If you don’t believe in God, all you have to believe in is decency. Decency is very good. Better decent than indecent. But I don’t think it’s enough."

A Christian ‘fightback’ should be supported by One Nation Conservatives within the context of greater toleration. We live in a pluralistic society. Other cultures must be respected. Yet Christians have become somehow exempted from the toleration afforded to others and fair game for discrimination by aggressive secularists.

Wearing a cross at work, holding town hall prayers (see Jack’s comments on these pages), Norwich County Council’s banning of a local church from a community centre.

It is appalling that this victimisation of ordinary Christians is happening at the same time that Yusuf al-Qaradawi is allowed to stay in this country, be embraced by Labour’s London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone, and defend suicide bombing, wife beating and the violent persecution of Jews and homosexuals.

Discrimination against Christians has also been a defining feature of the debate about same-sex marriage, in which opponents are brazenly dismissed as homophobes. The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, for instance, is opposed to gay marriage but supports civil partnerships and has certainly not expressed hatred towards homosexuals.

It also says a lot about the current state of the debate that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is forced to ban “gay cure” adverts from the capital’s red buses, while Christians offended by gay rights charity Stonewall’s campaign are denounced as bigots.

How can we possibly have a grown-up debate about an important subject such as same-sex marriage if senseless demonisation is allowed to trump rational discussion?

Whatever side you take, there is a principle at stake here. Toleration has to incorporate toleration of those people who we disagree with or believe to hold intolerant views. It is time for toleration in Britain to live up to Voltaire’s famous and apocryphal quotation: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Regrettably, Mr Cameron’s attempts to tackle aggressive secularism have been undermined by George Osborne’s recent blunders over the so-called 'charity tax' and 'heritage tax'.

The Government is launching a formal consultation on charity tax relief and will hopefully heed the advice given by Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, on BBC’s Newsnight recently.

But we have yet to see if the Government will reverse its decision to slap a VAT bill of £20 billion on the 12,500 listed church buildings. There is already an e-petition with a growing number of signatures demanding that the VAT zero rate on alterations to listed buildings be revived.

This hit to charitable giving and listed buildings threatens irreparable and unnecessary harm to churches such as Wakefield Cathedral. Many churches stand as bastions of beauty and monuments to tradition. Several have stood since Norman times. It would be a crime against our common heritage to allow these tax policies to continue.

Once upon a time it could be said, with some truth, that the Church of England was ‘the Tory party at prayer’. David Cameron and other One Nation Conservatives should have the courage of their convictions to defend and praise the established Church’s role in the spiritual life of the nation and the wellbeing of communities; to fight for full religious toleration; and to conserve our precious buildings.

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A curate’s egg of a Budget?

David Cowan 6.02am

On Wednesday, George Osborne grew in stature as a Tory Chancellor. The Budget was the most definitive account of the Government’s plan for growth. Yet it was mainly framed as a tax reform budget, and it is by this standard it should be judged.

In which case, it was also something of a curate’s egg. In places it was bold and radical, while in others it did not go nearly far enough.

Mr Osborne articulated a clear, long-term vision for tax reform. He began by claiming Adam Smith as his guide, embracing the principle that taxes ought to be “simple, predictable, support work, and they should be fair”.

The establishment of the Office for Tax Simplification (OTS) demonstrated Mr Osborne’s commitment to sustained reform of a tax code that must be “fit for the modern world”. (This already comprises measures such as merging the rates of income tax and National Insurance.)

There is the Personal Tax Statement, first proposed by Ben Gummer MP, which will appear for the first time in 2014. It will tell taxpayers exactly how much they are paying in tax and exactly where that money is being spent. This is particularly important at a time when people do not know how much of their hard-earned cash is consumed by the costs of servicing our £7.9 trillion debt.

At the heart of this Budget is the start of a serious shift in taxation from income to wealth.

The 50p top rate of income tax will be reduced to 45p in April 2013, but Mr Osborne has already reassured Conservative MPs that the new top rate will not be permanent. Following the announcement on Wednesday, Ed Miliband immediately rolled out the tired old rhetoric of faux class warfare. The fact is that the top rate was not raising any meaningful revenue - a mere third of what was promised - and as page 91 of the Red Book proves, it will actually be the millionaires paying more after this Budget.

The group of taxpayers that Mr Osborne ought to be most concerned about are the taxpayers still stuck in the 40p higher rate, between £41,450 and £150,000, especially since he has just shifted 300,000 new taxpayers into that category.

This situation is not helped by the changes to Child Benefit. What the economist Andrew Lilico has persuasively argued is a tax rebate, not a welfare benefit, has effectively been taken away from the important ‘squeezed middle’ at a time when living costs are still rising painfully.

Then there is the so-called ‘Granny Tax’, which was ‘unearthed’ by linguistically creative journalists hours after the Budget. Despite the Brown-esque manner in which it was delivered, the policy remains a sensible one. Mr Osborne has said that the age-related allowances will be frozen from April 2013 onwards. The impact has been exaggerated, as Sara hinted at yesterday, and it will be alleviated by the planned increases in the personal allowance.

This leads on to the Liberal Democrats’ key victory: the acceleration towards a £10,000 income tax personal allowance. As a result of this Budget, no-one will pay income tax on their first £9,205 as of April 2013. Everyone working for the minimum wage will see their income tax bill halved.

This has not stopped Conservative MPs from claiming some credit for the policy, as Nick Boles did during the pre-Budget PMQs, and as Robert Halfon’s fascinating Right Angle campaign web site has done of late.

However, what really matters is how these tax changes are funded. Mr Osborne, under pressure from the Lib Dems and even Tories such as Boris Johnson, unleashed a new set of measures to target wealth, largely through tinkering with Stamp Duty.

A new 7 per cent rate will be levied on £2 million properties and a new 15 per cent charge will be used to crack down on the use of corporate envelopes to avoid tax when purchasing properties.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) will also be extended to residential properties being held by overseas envelopes. This will be accompanied by a new range of anti-tax avoidance and evasion measures.

Altogether, it means that the richest will pay up to five times more than they would have done with the 50p income tax rate.

This is the correct direction of travel for direct taxation. Wealth should be taxed in a manner that is fair and which encourages wealth creation. Yet it still remains the case that the best way to do this is a Land Value Tax (LVT), within the context of simplified property taxes.

The main rate of corporation tax was reduced by 2 points, which will eventually mean corporation tax of 22 per cent in April 2014 - well below the level of comparable countries like the United States but not as low as Ireland’s 12.5 per cent. Mr Osborne wants the rate to come down to 20 per cent by 2015.

But the method taken to fund the reductions in corporation tax was misguided. The bank levy is one of Mr Osborne’s more harmful gimmicks and has yet again been increased (to 0.105 per cent) at a time when our financial services industry needs to be made more competitive, not less.

Mr Osborne has also taken a leaf out of Sir Geoffrey Howe’s book by increasing indirect taxes on consumption (e.g. 5 per cent hike on tobacco duty) to fund deficit reduction and ever-increasing public expenditure. Albeit to his credit, he has managed to keep fuel and vehicle excise duties lower than they would have been under a Labour government.

George Osborne’s vision is of a tax code that is more transparent, where direct taxation moves away from income towards wealth, in which a more competitive business tax regime can boost growth, and where taxes on consumption help to maintain ‘fiscal stability’. Regrettably, political gimmicks like the bank levy and other tax raids continue to infect Mr Osborne’s agenda.

Earlier this week, I asked whether George Osborne could join Neville Chamberlain and Sir Geoffrey Howe among the pantheon of great Tory Chancellors. Wednesday’s Budget brought him closer to the mark, but not quite the whole hog. His fiscal plans have been blown off course since last November and we are yet to experience the full dangers of the largest experiment in quantitative easing ever embarked upon.

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