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March 07, 2024
Pod Save the UK
Jeremy Hunt’s election budget for big earners and big owners

In This Episode

Did the Chancellor’s much anticipated pre-election budget fall flat? Nish and Coco pick over the details and wonder why our public services are being sacrificed for the sake of tax cuts. There’s reaction from Westminster from political journalist Kiran Stacey, who says that there are signs of the budget unravelling already. Rachelle Earwaker from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says it does nothing for the poorest in society, calling it a budget for “big earners and big owners”.

 

Find out how a sleepy corner of Devon could be about to shake up our political system. Fed up of a first past the post system that’s delivered a Tory MP for the last 99 years, voters in Totnes are organising their own series of primaries to pick a progressive candidate to oust their MP Anthony Mangnall. Could it catch on in other places too?

 

There’s an International Women’s Day theme to this week’s hero and villain…find out what Lucy Moore and the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council have done to deserve their accolades. Meanwhile Coco’s got a bone to pick with King Harold of 1066 fame, plus there are tales of micro-pigs, badgers and naughtiness at Disneyland.

 

Pod Save the UK is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media.

 

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Guests:

Kiran Stacey, political correspondent at The Guardian

Rachelle Earwaker, senior economist at The Joseph Rowntree Foundation

 

Audio credits:

parliamentlive.tv

X / @SDevonPrimary

X / @lucyajmmoore

 

Useful links:

https://www.jrf.org.uk/

https://crooked.com/podcast-series/pod-save-america/

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Nish Kumar Jeremy Hunt. Jeremy hunt, Jeremy hunt.

 

Coco Khan Okay. Yeah, let’s let’s make sure we get that right. Yeah. Hi, everyone. Welcome to Pod Save the UK.

 

Nish Kumar I’m Nish Kumar.

 

Coco Khan And I’m Coco Khan.

 

Nish Kumar There is a tired looking man on the television carrying a battered red briefcase and stood awkwardly in the street, presenting it to photographers. That can only mean one thing.

 

Coco Khan Yes, it’s the spring budget, but Jeremy Hunt’s budget isn’t designed to save the UK. It’s designed to save the Tories. But will it work?

 

Nish Kumar We’ll take a look at the politics at play, and also ask whether it’ll do anything for those who actually need the most.

 

Coco Khan Helping us will be Kiran Stacey, political correspondent for The Guardian, and Rachelle Earwaker, senior economist at the anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

 

Nish Kumar Hi Coco.

 

Coco Khan Hi, Nish.

 

Nish Kumar We’re back at the studio. We’re back together.

 

Coco Khan We are back. Oh, my God, what a reunion.

 

Nish Kumar I’ve missed you.

 

Coco Khan The stars have aligned. And what is going to come out of that union is? What? What is it bands?

 

Nish Kumar Hopefully a podcast.

 

Coco Khan Okay.

 

Nish Kumar Fingers crossed a podcast. It has to be a podcast by contractual obligations.

 

Coco Khan Yes, that is true. That’s true.

 

Nish Kumar Happy birthday.

 

Coco Khan Thank you.

 

Nish Kumar It was your birthday. You had your leap year birthday.

 

Coco Khan I did indeed. So for any of the listeners who are not stalking me, which is appreciated, please continue to not do that. My birthday.

 

Nish Kumar If you want to try to steal Coco’s identity, really listen in now because you’re about to get some key DOB information.

 

Coco Khan Listen, mate, you don’t want my credit rating. You just don’t want to. Like. Some things were bought on Klarna a long time ago. I was very young. Anyway, my birthday is the 29th of February. It’s once every four years. And so, you know, it means a lot to me. And this year, I finally got one. I got a birthday.

 

Nish Kumar How was it? What did you do?

 

Coco Khan Well, my leap year tradition is to try and do something that reflects my real age. And so I try and do something childlike to reflect it. And this year I went to a farm to meet some little pigs. No literally they were small pigs.

 

Nish Kumar The pigs. What are they, miniature pigs?

 

Coco Khan Well, they’re micro pigs. Oh, great. You think about micro pigs, is that they? I mean, they always remain smaller than your average pig.

 

Nish Kumar Sure.

 

Coco Khan But an adult micro pig is actually fairly large.

 

Nish Kumar Right.

 

Coco Khan Actually. So I went to go meet some adult small pigs. Right. And it’s a wonderful farm because you can walk them, you put a harness on and you walk them around.

 

Nish Kumar You were walking a pig?

 

Coco Khan I walked a pig! Yeah.

 

Nish Kumar To a casual observer, it would look like you’d had a nervous breakdown.

 

Coco Khan There was definitely an element of it.

 

Nish Kumar Is that Coco Khan? Walking a pig on a leash like it’s a dog?

 

Coco Khan There was definitely an aspect of it where I was like, oh, this is the sort of thing where, you know, someone’s had a a breakdown maybe. Yeah. And they’re in the priory and they bring the animals in to help them.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah. Barefoot on a high street, walking a pig. Yeah. That’s got all the, hallmarks of celebrity breakdown.

 

Coco Khan I mean, you know what I was thinking about this is, like, tangent, but people always talk about the first time they meet a celebrity.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah.

 

Coco Khan But I think that is not that impressive.

 

Nish Kumar Sure.

 

Coco Khan No offense. You’re my celebrity friend. And.

 

Nish Kumar I mean, that’s suggests you need a wider pool of friends. You’ve got to aim higher than me being your celebrity friend. You simply have to.

 

Coco Khan You’re my celebrity friend. Then. You know, at first it’s titillating, but after a while it’s sort of, you know, it’s diminishing return isn’t it. Having a celebrity friend.

 

Nish Kumar What letter of the alphabet list I am as a celebrity, I think. I don’t even know if it’s a Z list. It might even be a double A-list, you know, like when they run out of alphabet letters and they start having to double them up.

 

Coco Khan Like it’s like getting smaller batteries like.

 

Nish Kumar I’m a FF list.

 

Coco Khan But what I’m saying is human celebrities are great, but have you ever met a badger? Do you know what I mean?

 

Nish Kumar What?

 

Coco Khan Have you ever met an animal that you wouldn’t otherwise meet?

 

Nish Kumar What do you say? Meet? How? I’m not shaking hands with a badger. I live in London, which is a city largely run by urban foxes.

 

Coco Khan Right.

 

Nish Kumar So I’ve encountered several of them, but I wouldn’t say we swapped business cards.

 

Coco Khan Did I. Please, can I tell you my story about seeing a badger for the first time?

 

Nish Kumar I don’t think I have a choice in the matter.

 

Coco Khan If it was only, like two years ago. And I remember it so vividly. Right. So we’re in the car. Me and my half. We’re driving along down some country roads.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah.

 

Coco Khan And then we turn a corner and then.

 

Nish Kumar For the benefit of the listeners, Coco is miming driving a car as if. Because I, which is true, don’t have a driver’s license don’t understand what a car is.

 

Coco Khan I think it’s important to bring it to life. You know what I mean? Anyway, so we go round this corner and then there it is. The headlights are on, it’s dark, and there’s a creature in the road running again quite fast.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah.

 

Coco Khan And it’s got this tail that looks like a fox, but it’s low down. Yeah. And there’s a moment where I’m like, what is that? What is that? You know, I grew up in London, didn’t holiday much, didn’t have a lot of money and stuff. So I was genuinely confused about what this creature was. And then it looked back over the shoulder. There it was the snout reveal.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah.

 

Coco Khan The black and white nose. And I screamed, it’s a badger! It was one of the best moments of my life. I forget. Where were you when Princess Diana died? Forget that. Where were you when you saw a badger? You know.

 

Nish Kumar I don’t think that that constitutes meeting the budget. Okay? I think you being sat inside of a car screaming, look, there’s a badger! That’s not a meeting.

 

Coco Khan You wouldn’t say that was a meeting?

 

You’ve not met the badger. You met the pigs.

 

Coco Khan I met the pigs. That’s true.

 

Nish Kumar You 100% met the pigs.

 

Coco Khan And actually, I would just say the animal that was the best.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah.

 

Coco Khan Was the chicken.

 

Nish Kumar Well, that’s going to be my evening at Nando’s quite awkward.

 

Coco Khan When was the last time you held a chicken?

 

Nish Kumar When was the last time you met a badger? When was the last time you held a chicken? What level of charisma does any animal have before you stop eating it? It’s a big week in American politics, with Donald Trump romping home in the Super Tuesday primaries and President Biden giving the state of the Union address.

 

Coco Khan But let’s be honest, the US political landscape right now is about as impressive as that a Willy Wonka warehouse experience in Glasgow.

 

Nish Kumar So if you’re trying to make sense of US politics in this crucial election year, you need to tune in to Pod Save America for all the best analysis and make sure to subscribe on Amazon Music so you never miss an episode. So we’re recording this shortly after the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, delivered what’s likely to be the last full budget before the next general election. So did he manage to deliver a tax cut giveaway to woo the voters and make a dent in Labour’s lead in the polls? A lot of the speculation in the lead up was about whether he’d go for a cut to National Insurance or more expensive options, said to be favored by number ten. A cut to income tax. Here he is in the Commons earlier.

 

Clip From April the 6th. Employee National Insurance will be cut by another £0.02 from 10% to 8%. Self-employed National Insurance will be cut from 8% to 6%. It means an additional 450 pounds a year for the average employee, or 350 pounds for someone self-employed. When combined with the autumn reductions. It means 27 million employees will get an average tax cut of 900 pounds a year. 2 million self-employed will get a tax cut averaging 650 pounds. Changes that make our system simpler and fairer. And changes that grow our economy by rewarding work.

 

Coco Khan So we got the tax cut we all expected, but also a surprise announcement on capital gains tax on property. Here’s Jeremy Hunts big finish on this.

 

Clip We stick to our plan with a budget for long term growth. It delivers more investment, more jobs, better public services and lower taxes. But dynamism in an economy doesn’t come from ministers in Whitehall. It comes from the grit and determination of people who take risks, work hard and innovate. Not government policies, but people power. It is to unleash people power that we today put this country back on the path to lower taxes. A plan to grow the economy versus low plan. A plan for better public services. There’s no plan. A plan to make work pay versus worker growth up, jobs up, taxes down. I commend this statement to the House.

 

Coco Khan So the Chancellor had plenty to say. He spoke for around an hour. But the question is, is the electorate still listening?

 

Nish Kumar And every budget is, of course, political, but none more so than one ahead of an election. So to help us read between the lines, we’re joined by Kiran Stacey, political correspondent for The Guardian. In a understandably busy and bustling Guardian office in the House of Commons. Kiran, thank you so much for joining us. I know this is a busy time for you.

 

Kiran Stacey It is. Thanks for having me. I may have to, shush some of my colleagues as we record but I’ll try and keep that to a minimum.

 

Nish Kumar It’s obviously always a big day in the political calendar. It’s got its own set of traditions with a red briefcase. And the chancellor sometimes has a whiskey as well.

 

Kiran Stacey Well, yeah, not for a while, but it used to be tradition that the chancellor got a drink of choice to bring in with him. And, yeah, the last person to do so was Ken Clarke, who sat there with a tumbler of single malt in front of him. I just can’t imagine speaking for an hour to a packed House of Commons, drinking whiskey and not expecting something to go wrong, but there you go.

 

Coco Khan It’s always such like manly drinks, like whiskey is is never going to be like.

 

Nish Kumar Oh, Rosé for the Hunt. Yeah.

 

Coco Khan Oh, just lemonade please.

 

Kiran Stacey You know, we haven’t had a female chancellor yet. Maybe that’s going to change when Rachel Reeves gets in.

 

Nish Kumar As someone who has occasionally spoken for an hour after a glass of whiskey. I can tell you it never, ever goes well. Um Kiran what are your main takeaways from. You know, not just any ordinary budget. An election year budget?

 

Kiran Stacey Yeah. I actually didn’t feel that much like an election year budget. Maybe that’s because so much of it had been briefed out in advance. So we knew that there was going to be this to cut to National Insurance. And in the hours before the actual statement, a lot of us journalists here in Westminster were going around thinking, where’s the rabbit? What have we missed? What is it that he’s going to say that’s going to surprise us all? And suddenly, you know, please the public in a way he hasn’t managed to do so yet. And the answer to all of that was nothing. There was no big rabbit. There were a few measures we didn’t expect. Some changes to child benefit, for example, which will be welcomed by a lot of households, but nothing that is suddenly going to turn an election losing position into an election winning one. And I was speaking to a Tory MP yesterday who was already banking the two cut to National Insurance. They were saying we tried this back in November. It didn’t work. Then why do we expect it to work today? So I think there will be a few questions around Tory and Tory circles. Just saying is that it is this what we have to win us the next election?

 

Coco Khan There were some surprises, though. I mean, the the abolition of non-dom status, which I understand was a Labour policy anyway. I mean, how do you think that will play?

 

Kiran Stacey It is a very political, very clever move. It’s actually going to raise a reasonable amount of money as well, you know, around 3 billion pounds. So what this really does is it allows the Chancellor to have some extra money to fund tax cuts, and he actually painted this as a stark choice between himself and Labour, because, of course, Labour was planning to use that money for a bunch of spending commitments, things like extra GP appointments, weekends and evenings that obviously then put Labour in a difficult position. Do they stick to their spending commitments or do they stick to the Tory announced tax cuts? They’ve already made that decision, they said very clearly in the chamber we support this then. Now we’re going to have to find other ways to fund those public spending measures that they were talking about. But there is a big, thing here that I think we are, at risk of completely missing, which is that the assumptions baked in for public spending in the next election are so tight that they involve massive, massive cuts from protected departments. So things like justice, like local governments, like the Home Office are going to take major counts, particularly on a per capita basis, because our population is rising over the next election, unless somebody decides to raise taxes or finds a way to grow the economy much more quickly than it is at the moment.

 

Coco Khan I remember last time we spoke for the autumn budget, you talked about the conservatives laying a trap for Labour. Does that sound like that same mechanism is at play here?

 

Kiran Stacey Yeah for sure. That’s exactly what they were planning to do. And that’s that’s what axing the non-dom status was. But Labour has already stated its position. They’re not going to fall into that trap. They’re going to, you know, stick to to that position and stick to the Tory tax cuts. The difficulty for Labour will be okay. They backbenchers going to go with them on that, because obviously a lot of Labour MPs were hoping for those additional bits of spending to help things like the NHS. It’s a lot easier, of course, to sell these kinds of measures to your backbenchers when you’re 20 points ahead in the polls.

 

Nish Kumar What happens next is sort of key, isn’t it? Can Jeremy Hunt get to the weekend without any of this unraveling?

 

Kiran Stacey I don’t think we’re quite in 2012 only shambles budget territory. But let me give you a couple of places where it might just unravel number one. And it’s already starting to happen. One of the ways in which hunt paid for this tax cut to National Insurance was to extend the windfall tax on oil and gas companies. Now, Labour would have also done that. But some on the Tory benches are very, very unhappy, especially in Scotland. So. Do we know Douglas Ross? That leader up there, was very unhappy about this. And now we have Andrew Bowie, who is an energy minister, has sent a tweet saying that this is deeply disappointing. So you’ve now got an energy minister criticizing openly one of the main energy measures in the budget. It doesn’t usually start to collapse as quickly as that. Let me give you one other thing that I think might just become a bit of a problem for the Chancellor and for the Prime Minister over the next few days. Half of this tax cut roughly, is being paid for because we have higher growth figures projected for the next few years, because we have higher estimates of what net migration is likely to be. The OBR has changed its medium term forecasts for migration to make it 70,000 higher. That provides a big boost for the public coffers. And that’s the money that Jeremy Hunt has spent. He’s essentially taken a decision to allow migration to go up and to use the money for that from that, for tax cuts. Now, that is going to be very unpopular among parts of the Conservative Party. And I think that is going to become a topic for conversation very quickly.

 

Coco Khan Kiran, let me ask you about the cut to capital gains tax on property. It sounded like, you know, a policy for landlords by landlords. I mean, what what would the impact be on the housing market.

 

Kiran Stacey I don’t think it’ll have a massive impact on the housing market. We’ve got to, 2 or 3 little measures here. We’ve got a a new tax on short term holiday lets, which is about targeting the Airbnb market in certain parts of the country. They’re abolishing multiple dwellings relief. And of course, as you’re mentioning the changing the higher rate of capital gains tax, down from 28% to 24%. Yeah, that’ll have an impact on those people who pay that higher rate. That is that isn’t a huge number of people. That is not, for example, what some people wanted to see Jeremy Hunt do. That is not abolishing stamp duty, which just really fueled the housing market. Nor is it, by the way, what Michael Gove wanted, which was a bunch of new money in the short term to help people onto the property ladder and in the long term, for house building. That was rejected fairly early on in the budget process, from what I’m told. So this is not some budget to stimulate housebuilding to, to to boost the housing market. Measures like the one that you’re talking about there I don’t know, maybe there are a little bit to give something back to the people who’ve just lost something because of the abolition of the, non-dom status. But but I don’t think it’s going to raise a huge amount of money.

 

Nish Kumar So, as is traditional, the leader of the opposition gave his response to the budget. This is how Keir Starmer started.

 

Clip There we have it. The last desperate act of a party that has failed. Britain in recession. The national credit card maxed out. And despite the measures today, the highest tax burden for 70 years. The first parliament since records began to see living standards pulled. Confirmed by this budget today. That is their record. It they still a record. Give with one hand and take even more with the other. Or nothing they do between now and the election will change that.

 

Coco Khan Thinking about Starmer’s message. How effective did you think it was? I mean, I definitely felt you listened to Jeremy Hunt. You think, what country are you living in? It sounds lovely. Yeah. Productivity is up. New jobs. I’m like, okay, well, and meanwhile, you know, Starmer paints a much starker picture, I think one that we would say is a little bit closer to reality. Do you think it would have done the job?

 

Kiran Stacey Yeah. I think you could have written Keir Starmers response probably about a week in advance. We all knew what the framing of it was going to be is exactly the same framing he used back in November. It’s essentially posing what we call the Reagan question, which is do you feel better off than when this lot first came in? And if the answer is no, vote for us. Instead, he’s essentially going to just keep hammering home that message. I think that Labour feel emboldened by the fact that the polls haven’t changed since November, since that tip cuts in National Insurance. Had we seen polls narrowing in the last few months, I think that Labour might have been a little bit more cautious. Keir Starmer might have come across as a little bit less bullish in his response today. They might have been a bit more worried about what another troop cut on National Insurance might do to the polls. But given that we’ve already had one of these cuts and it made absolutely zero difference, I think Labour feels bold enough that they can spend the next six months basically saying, look, we know you don’t feel better off even with this tax cut. So ignore all the noise. That’s the real message. And of course, the thing that we shouldn’t forget is that taxes overall are going up. And that’s partially as a result of this complicated thing that the Treasury does where it freezes the thresholds for national insurance and income tax, and then because of inflation, because people’s salaries are going up, more and more people end up paying the tax and therefore the tax goes up. It’s called fiscal drag. And it’s been very lucrative for the Treasury. And it’s one of the reasons that people don’t feel better off, even while we’re being told that taxes are being cut.

 

Nish Kumar I want to briefly talk to you about a general election because, it’s so much of this, hunt speech seemed geared towards that even before he’d announced any measure. He’d started by attacking Labour’s proposed, economic policies. But I just want to briefly talk to you about Jeremy Hunt. Himself. This week, the campaign group 38 degrees carried out a survey in Godalming and Ash, which is his constituency in Surrey. Starmer actually referenced a news story that’s been circulating this week that hunt has spent 100,000 pounds of his own money trying to campaign to ensure that he retains his seat. Is he going to be the first chancellor in living memory to lose his seat at a general election?

 

Kiran Stacey Yeah, that was a news story, by the way, in The Guardian. That was an exclusive written by my colleague a later I. So I should give her the credit for that one. But yeah, I think there is a strong chance that he loses that seat. And I think the fact that he spent 100,000 pounds in the last few years tells you something about what he thinks about it. The, the majorities in those, what we call kind of, blue wall, you know something? Constituencies are quite high. You know, you are looking at 10,000 majorities plus in a lot of these seats. And for someone like the Chancellor and one of the reasons this very rarely happens is what ends up happening is if a very high profile person is at risk, that sucks resources from nearby constituencies, and especially given there are quite a few safe ones in the south. Such resources into that one. So I think what you’ll end up having is a very heavy Tory campaign when it gets to it in those last few weeks, and that will probably be enough to keep him in. They definitely won’t want the optics of losing that Chancellor. And I think they will throw everything they can at their seat to make sure that doesn’t happen.

 

Nish Kumar The other thing that I thought was interesting about some of that polling data is when his constituents were asked about whether they would like tax cuts or increased public spending, more of them seemed to be suggesting that they would want more public spending. And is that why the dial is not moving every time they announce these kind of things? Are they odds with public opinion in general?

 

Kiran Stacey Well, in general, yes. And poll after poll after poll shows, that is that voters, as you say in general, would prefer right now public spending to go up, even if it means their taxes being higher than they would otherwise be. There, however, has been some polling done, from what I understand by the Tories among the particular voters that they won over in 2019 and that they’re desperately trying to keep hold of now, and that polling suggests it’s much closer among that group of people, and possibly that group of people would prefer to have their taxes cut. So there are groups, I think, in, in the country, groups of voters who would prefer having their taxes cut. And that’s exactly who the Tories are targeting right now. It’s not just ideology, although, you know, to a certain extent it is ideology. The Tories are the low tax party. And they Jeremy Hunt said as much today. But it’s not just that. I think they have seen something in the polls that tells them this might be a path through to defending all those seats that they’re predicted to lose. But it is a bit of a gamble. As you say, the polls overall suggest this is not a popular way forward.

 

Coco Khan Speaking of polls, the big question on everyone’s lips is when will there be a general election? What are you thinking? Carried?

 

Kiran Stacey Well, I’ve said November the 14th, the last, two, three months. So I’m going to stick with that. I think the fact that there was no big rabbit in the, in in Jeremy Hunt’s hat today, bolsters that case this summer is going to be an interesting one because, there going to be more people rolling off their fixed mortgages, so more people are going to feel the impact of higher inflation. We’re going to have the numbers of small boat crossings going up. So that will be, something that the Tories might want to avoid. We’re also going to have a set of likely very bad local elections in May for the Tories. So all those things people have said, well, maybe they want to bring it forward. But the other thing we’re going to have at the summer is probably the first flights to Rwanda taking off. And I think there is a strong case for the Tories wanting that to happen before they end up going to the polls, which is why I think it will be later. One of the reasons I think it’ll be later. I think the other thing is just human psychology. If you are the Prime minister right now, looking down the barrel at a 20 point deficit in the polls and a massive election loss, you’re going to stay in power for as long as you can, not only because you enjoy the trappings of power, because you think something is going to happen, something will come along. One of my plans will work and we will turn this thing around. It’s just human nature to think that. And that’s why I think in the end he will hold on rather than ahead. But you know, we’ll come back in a few weeks and I’ll be proven wrong. We’ll be in the middle of an election campaign and you’ll call me an idiot.

 

Coco Khan I mean, Starmer was saying, you know, in his speech today, you know, let’s, let’s, let’s all agree May 2nd.

 

Kiran Stacey Labour have been trying to make May 2nd happen for a long time. That’s not happening.

 

Coco Khan But just like on a personal level was very convenient for me because it’s the mayor elections on May 2nd.

 

Nish Kumar You try to double up.

 

Coco Khan I’m out now. Do you know? I mean, I’m already out. It’s no problem.

 

Kiran Stacey Are you running for mayor? Is that what we’re talking about? Sorry. I’m clock that.

 

Nish Kumar I think Coco and Susan Hall the conservative candidate have a similar chance of being mayor of London. Come the 3rd of May.

 

Coco Khan You should see my micro pig mascot though. That’s gonna win it.

 

Nish Kumar Kiran, I want to ask you one more question of absolutely no consequence. Oliver Dowd of the deputy Prime Minister was sat next to Jeremy Hunt the entire time. Do you have any sense of why he looked like someone was permanently farting in his face? I have a. I thought it was absolutely extraordinary. The optics of it. He looked furious.

 

Kiran Stacey I think to a certain extent, he just has one of those faces.

 

Nish Kumar Well, Kiran, thank you for your insight and also for indulging my stupid fucking question. It was. Yeah. We look forward to catching up with you again as we move towards your 100% guaranteed predictions of a November 14th general election.

 

Kiran Stacey Yeah, if you have me on on a less busy day, I will leave this office and I will come and see you in person. Yeah. Yeah, I look forward to it.

 

[AD]

 

Coco Khan So let’s park the party politics for a moment and focus on what a budget should really be about improving the lives of the people of this country. So what’s in this budget for the poorest in society? Those most in need of help? Joining us now in the studio is Rachelle Earwaker, who is senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a charity that conducts and funds research aimed at solving poverty in the UK. Hello.

 

Rachelle Earwaker Hello.

 

Nish Kumar Thanks for joining us on what I imagine is a very hectic day.

 

Rachelle Earwaker Hectic, but also very exciting. I love a budget day.

 

Coco Khan Well, I mean, Joseph Rowntree Foundation got a shout out in the Chancellor’s speech. How are you feeling about that?

 

Rachelle Earwaker We will reluctantly take the shout out in the Chancellor’s speech. I think, given what the shout out was for.

 

Nish Kumar Give us the context for it.

 

Rachelle Earwaker So, we got a shout out in the Chancellor’s speech for the Chancellor announcing that he was going to extend the Household Support fund for an additional six months from the 1st of April. Now, that’s really, really welcome news for all of the families who will be able to benefit from that. But six months just simply isn’t long enough for a fund that needs to be in place permanently. And the absence of a really strong social security system in the UK, we know the cost of living crisis impacts aren’t going to be over in the next six months, so all it really is, is a sticking plaster waiting for us to have another debate about it in six months.

 

Coco Khan So just for our listeners, the Household Support Fund gives money to councils for projects aimed at those most in need. So we’re talking about food banks. We’re talking about warm spaces. So really food banks get a guarantee of just six months.

 

Rachelle Earwaker Well, exactly. And I think in general what this budget was, was a budget for big earners and big owners rather than those who are experiencing destitution. We know that levels of destitution in the UK have more than doubled over the last five years. We know that 14.5 million people are in poverty. And this budget completely ignores those experiences of people relying on food banks, you know, trying desperately every day to make ends meet to pay their bills. And it just ignored them.

 

Nish Kumar Because earlier this week, the Rowntree Foundation had published an analysis. The exact phrase that was used was the budget risks condemning Britain to a second lost decade for living standards. Did you hear anything in this budget that suggested that that isn’t going to be the case?

 

Rachelle Earwaker I think we are definitely still on track and at risk of that second lost decade. So the OBS just published that real household disposable incomes, per person, it will take until next year for us to get back to where we were pre-pandemic. Now that’s wild. No one’s experiencing higher living standards at the moment because we’re still playing catch up. And many households have fallen further and further behind and can’t currently pay their bills. And today’s budget should have been about addressing that, particularly in an election year. And it it just did it.

 

Coco Khan One of the things we were talking about is the disconnect between the government and the people. I mean, you know, there are so many examples of where that’s happening. But just thinking about today, the general public want more money spent on public services. Did you get the sense from this budget that there could be some of that, or actually, should we expect more cuts?

 

Rachelle Earwaker Yeah. So Jeremy Hunt announced that he was going to maintain the 1% increase to public services, across the forecast period. He wasn’t going to change that. But when he announced more funding for the NHS, that is within that same envelope. So if you’re putting more money into health within that envelope, which is welcome, the NHS is obviously in dire need of additional support. It does mean that that envelope is much, much smaller for other public services too. So looking at how schools, our court systems, etcetera, that’s a real, real concern there.

 

Nish Kumar The court system is interesting, one, because Kevin actually flagged this idea that there is still these government unprotected government departments that are going to have to find efficiency savings. I’ve seen some figures quoting a 17% reduction in funding for some government departments. Can you explain to me how the fiscal measures that are being put in place doesn’t result in the entire country grinding to a halt?

 

Rachelle Earwaker I think there is real risk, actually, that what has been announced today and what has been announced over the last few years put our public services at a huge risk. Over 70% of the public say that they want more money invested in the public services. They are watching them crumble around them, and only 44% said that they were interested in, lower taxes. And what we’ve seen in the budget today is a complete reversal of what the public are actually saying that they want and what they need. This seems to me like this is the Chancellor saying he thinks this is what people might like, in an election year. And I think that this is a political choice at the end of the day. We are not so fiscally constrained that we cannot invest in our public services and have a strong social security system and make sure that everyone can afford the basics every single day. The our hospital waiting lists aren’t as. As long as they are that schools aren’t crumbling down around us. This is all a political choice and that there is always the money to be found. If we want to to invest in those services.

 

Nish Kumar And there’s a sort of fundamental problem we have in this country where there’s always money for tax breaks, but there doesn’t seem to be any money for public spending. And and the problem that we’ve got at the moment is there is sort of consensus between the two main parties about this. How can you build a case for public spending? Especially. And I mean, it shouldn’t be that difficult given the widespread public support for it. But how does someone like you works for the Rowntree Foundation, who are trying to improve the lives of ordinary people in this country? Make the case for public spending.

 

Rachelle Earwaker So, I mean, public spending is at the heart of our society. If we look around us and we look at what makes our society so good, it is the public services that we engage with every single day. It is our hospitals, it’s our schools. It is all of the services that our local government provides as well as our parks. It’s the boring things like rubbish collection. Without any.

 

Nish Kumar Like, that rubbish collection is boring. It is boring until it doesn’t happen. I don’t.

 

Rachelle Earwaker I mean, I live in Tower Hamlets and the strike.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah.

 

Rachelle Earwaker Late last year wasn’t a good watch. Yeah. So, I think if you look around us. Exactly. Public services matter. They are the heart of our society. And they are what should be prioritized. Well, added to that as well is that a big part of our public services is also our social security system. And what the budget ignored today was those on the lowest incomes who desperately need support the most. We’ve had cost of living payments come to an end. We have seen that the impact of higher inflation, higher costs of essentials, higher interest rates, it is hammering on the door of lower income households. And what we know is that our current social security system falls so far short of people being able to afford the essentials every day, and yet the government completely ignored it.

 

Nish Kumar There’s this idea of, also a British idea for British people. British, British, British, British, British, British is everything British, British, British, British that gives an extra 5,000 pounds of tax free money that you can put into an Isa that specifically gets invested in British businesses. And it’s being sort of portrayed as something that’s for the benefit of working people. Do a lot of people have an extra five grand to just casually kick into a savings account.

 

Rachelle Earwaker So that’s something that’s, you know, not going to benefit the majority of working people.

 

Coco Khan What could the Labour Party be doing, do you think if you just play fantasy chancellor for a second, what’s something that progressive minded people could be pushing for.

 

Rachelle Earwaker My ideal role? So so I think.

 

Nish Kumar You did say you love Budget Day.

 

Rachelle Earwaker I do love Budget Day. It’s true. So I think what they could be doing is looking at really exciting, things that would make our tax system better. So again, looking back to how can we make it fairer and more efficient and bring wealth in line with, with earnings? I think that would be my first step on saying you’re not as hamstrung as you think you are in terms of the public finances. That is a really important step to be able to do. Then put that money into investing in public services, put it into investing in things that are actually productive for our economy, that are going to make that transition to net zero better. It could make the UK world leading and net at the moment we’re lagging so far behind. And then finally, I would say that at the heart of Labour values should be those on low incomes and what we haven’t seen yet, and what we really do need to see is support for lower income households. So I would start to take steps to say that our social security system should, at a minimum, be aligned with the costs of essentials. We should always have it at that level, should never be allowed to fall below it. And then other things like how housing benefits should always be aligned with the actual cost of housing, like rent, so that every year we’re not having an argument about whether or not housing benefits are frozen. So all of those things together would make a far better budget, in my opinion.

 

Coco Khan So, Rachel, we’re going to ask you the same question we ask, what are you thinking about an election? When will it happen? Any clues? Today?

 

Rachelle Earwaker I think an election will be in the in the later part of the year. They’ve announced today that there’s not going to be another fiscal event, before the election, which will put whoever inherits the, the government reins and a very tricky financial position. I think going forward, they’re going to have to make some very speedy decisions about government departmental spending.

 

Nish Kumar So just to clarify that, that means there’s no autumn statement before the election. And that’s been confirmed in government paperwork that’s come out to that.

 

Rachelle Earwaker Yeah, I’ve just been in sort of the bunker reading, reading the documents and that’s outlined in there.

 

Nish Kumar Because, I mean, I think there was an assumption that there would be an autumn statement that essentially would sort of fire the starting pistol on the election campaign. There’d be some kind of tax giveaway in that the the Conservative Party could sort of launch a manifesto off the back of. And it’s there simply just no fiscal room for them to do that.

 

Rachelle Earwaker Yeah, that I mean, they have said that it isn’t going to be one, but I think today’s budget is the offering for the election. And I would say that lower income households are highly unlikely to think that this has been the budget for them.

 

Coco Khan Rachel. Erica, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate you, outlining to us how this budget was not for lots of people unless you had multiple properties, in which case you’re having a great day.

 

Nish Kumar What did you call it? A budget for.

 

Rachelle Earwaker Paganism.

 

Nish Kumar Big donors, big honors and big honors. That’s the budget. And if that’s not the episode title, I’ll be absolutely shocked.

 

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Coco Khan Let’s take a quick look at a couple of other things happening in politics this week. Rishi Sunak’s government has suffered its heaviest defeat in the House of Lords over its Safety of Rwanda bill. Just to remind you, this is the piece of legislation that declares Rwanda to be a safe country in order to circumvent the courts and revive the government scheme to send asylum seekers there. It’s a major part of Rishi Sunak’s Stop the Boats policy to deter people from crossing the channel.

 

Nish Kumar The bill is currently making its way through the Lords, where the government has already lost five votes in a series of amendments, with more defeats expected in votes later today. It means a bill will go back to the Commons for a round of so-called parliamentary ping pong, where the legislation is batted between the two houses.

 

Coco Khan And here’s the story that you may have missed that really caught my attention. Voters in Totnes, who are sick of 99 years of conservative rule in the South Devon constituency, have taken matters into their own hands and come together to choose a unity candidate to unseat their MP. They held the first of what will be seven primaries this weekend, where progressive candidates made their pitch as to why they should be the one people unite behind to unseat Tory MP Anthony Mangano. The event was kicked off by the journalist and environmental activist George Monbiot, who’s a local resident.

 

Clip We’re not pretending any of us here to be politically neutral. We are here to evict the Tory candidate. For 99 years. Totnes has been a conservative constituency, despite the fact that in recent years, the majority of people living in this constituency have voted for progressive candidates. This is a classic example of what the Democracy Campaign Compass calls a progressive tragedy, where most people don’t want the conservatives to represent them. But the conservative ends up representing them. And this is an artifact of our first past the post political system, which deprives us of genuine democratic power and genuine democratic engagement.

 

Coco Khan The South Devon primary will announce its unity candidate when voting is completed after its seventh town hall event in a fortnight’s time. It’s quite amazing, people taking matters into their own hands.

 

Nish Kumar I mean, listen. The only thing we should flag with this is that Labour actually haven’t selected their candidate yet. So there was no Labour representative, at this meeting. But it does seem to be a sensible response, by those people who would like to see progressive parties work together in some form, and the primary process feels more democratic than the informal pacts that exist between electoral parties. You know, this idea of like a Labour, Lib Dem or Labour SNP informal arrangement, actually having primaries and having people make their case to people does seem like a more progressive and democratic version of that idea.

 

Coco Khan I’ve got another story for you, Nish. Yeah, apparently 1 in 4 Labour supporters wouldn’t data Tory. A new poll by Maureen Common has also found that 39% of 2019 Tory voters would be comfortable if a loved one married a Labour voter, while only 28% of 2019 Labour voters would be comfortable if their loved one married a Tory. So who’s the real tolerance like Nish?

 

Nish Kumar It is interesting. Can your libido have a political conscience? That’s what. That’s what I’m interested in. Can your genitals be woke? The only thing I would say is that the sort of average conservative voter is aging quite badly. So, I mean, I’m not sure that they’re maybe spoiled for choice.

 

Coco Khan Maybe. Maybe. And actually, a final big political story that I need to talk to you about is I have heard that there was a comedian in Disneyland a couple of weeks ago in a state of disarray. And I understand that comedian was you, Nish.

 

Nish Kumar No, I listen, I went to Disneyland having consumed some edible marijuana, which is legal in the state of California. There’s no story here. Okay? There’s absolutely no story here.

 

Coco Khan How was that?

 

Nish Kumar The story here is man who looks like he consumes marijuana, consumed marijuana.

 

Coco Khan But how, like, genuinely what was that experience like?

 

Nish Kumar To be clear, I only do it in countries where it’s legal.

 

Coco Khan Okay?

 

Nish Kumar I’m not a law. I’m not a lawbreaker. You won’t get me on that.

 

Coco Khan Genuinely. Seriously. Mickey Mouse on edibles. How is that nightmare?

 

Nish Kumar I will say it was very low dosage. Like, as a as I say, I don’t do it very often. I only do it when I’m in countries where it’s legal. So I’m not messing with the real hardcore stuff. I didn’t want to be on Space Mountain and feel myself disappearing into a, you know, into a black hole.

 

Coco Khan Oh God, well, that is that concludes a very important news roundup. Thank you for listening.

 

Nish Kumar Coco, you’ll kick off heroes and villains. Who is your PSUK hero of the week?

 

Coco Khan So, in honor of International Women’s Day this week, I’m going for an academic from Leeds. Her name is Lucy Moore. She’s basically had a one woman campaign to correct gender imbalance on Wikipedia. Less than 20% of the biographies on the English language Wikipedia are about women. In fact, 2022 research found that there were more entries about football and footballers than about women entirely. So back in 2019, Lucy set herself the task of writing a new entry about a woman for every country in the world. Here she is explaining it herself.

 

Clip Yes. That’s right. From Afghanistan. Zimbabwe. I’ve written a biography for a woman from all of those places. Why have I done this? Because for me, it is a feminist act. I believe strongly that the representation of women still needs to be, pressed and raised and that women from countries everywhere are doing extraordinary things that need to be better known. And on, English Wikipedia, only 19.76% of biographies are about women. Which I do not think. Even if you take into account the bias in sources, accurately represents our contributions to the world, and women from global majority countries are even less well represented. Which is why I started this global challenge, to ensure that I’ve done at least one thing to, help support women from those places be better known on the internet.

 

Coco Khan So, having started her project in 2019, Lucy Moore has just finished having written the biographies of 532 women from every country, autonomous regions and overseas territories in the world. So I think we can all agree it’s a heroic achievement. And if I may take a quick diversion. Yeah. During my time away from the show, I was doing some wholesome things, meeting pigs, you know, that sort of stuff. Yeah. I also found myself wanting to take a drive. So I took this drive and I ended up in Waltham Abbey, which is the the resting place of King Harold, who’s a king who got defeated by William the Conqueror in 1066. Yes, she’s a history queen, I know stuff. He had a whole monument dedicated to himself. But I’m like, buff, you didn’t even win this guy. What is this? Participation certificate? And I just think there’s so many men who get valorized for doing not the right thing or losing. And there’s so many women that have accomplished so much in so many movements, particularly workers movements and Labour movement. So I’m all for it. Down with King Harold. Up with the ladies.

 

Nish Kumar I feel like I’m at a comedy roast in 1067. Feels like Harold getting roasted.

 

Coco Khan  Is it too soon? Do you think it’s too soon?

 

Nish Kumar I mean, in some ways, you could interpret the Bayou tapestry as the ultimate roast of King Harold. Then there’s very few people that have the moment of their death commemorated as a tapestry.

 

Coco Khan Wow this is a deep cut stuff.

 

Nish Kumar Listen, I love the idea of you describing it as a participation trophy. And absolutely, there are plenty of bad who was celebrated for either doing terrible things. Oh fuck it, everything up. So.

 

Coco Khan Right. Well exactly.

 

Nish Kumar I think it’s a brilliant project. I think it’s absolutely great.

 

Coco Khan So tell me, who is your PSUK villain of the week?

 

Nish Kumar So sticking with the International Women’s Day theme, my villain of the week is whoever it was on the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council who thought it was a good idea to invite a man to be the keynote speaker for their International Women’s Day event. A day that, lest we forget, it’s about amplifying women’s voices and celebrating their often overlooked and under-reported achievements. There understandably has been a backlash. Naomi Long, the leader of the Alliance Party, said it was mortifying, while Shinade McLaughlin of the Social Democrat and Labour Party described it as very 1990s, which I guess is rarely a compliment unless you’re talking about a specific type of indie band. But because of the reaction, the invited keynote speaker, who’s a brand consultant called Billy Dixon, has now withdrawn from the event in Newry in Northern Ireland. In a statement, the council said our commitment to inclusivity remains unwavering and we deeply regret the impact on the celebration of the day. A learning moment there for my villain of the week Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. It’s also very funny because it’s playing out essentially the plot of the Parks and Recreation episode where they try to ward Ron Swanson, a man the woman of the year award.

 

Coco Khan But listen, guys, Easter is rapidly approaching and we’re planning to have a week off at the start of April. Don’t worry. We’ll still be popping up in your feed with a special bonus episode where we’re going to be dipping into our mailbag.

 

Nish Kumar So if you’ve got a political dilemma for agony Auntie Coco, an angry agony uncle, I actually couldn’t say the word such. How did. That’s how disgusted I find the idea of me being anyone’s agony uncle. If you’ve got a political dilemma for agony Aunt Coco or agony Uncle Nish, then get in touch. We also want to hear from you if you think there’s something we should know about or that we should be covering on the show. Or maybe there’s something that’s always mystiful idea about our often weird and wacky political system. We will do our best to explain, by which I mean we will contact one of our various expert friends that we have on the show to actually explain it. We will not be just swinging in the dark.

 

Coco Khan Get in touch with us by emailing PSUK@ReducedListening.Co.Uk. It’s always nice to hear your voices, so do send us a voice note on WhatsApp. Our number is 07514 644572. And internationally that’s +44 7514 644572.

 

Nish Kumar Don’t forget to follow at Pod Save the UK on Instagram and Twitter. You can also find us on YouTube for access to full episodes and other exclusive content, and you can drop us a review, if you like. Also remember, we want to know about times you’ve met a badger.

 

Coco Khan Yeah, yeah. And also remember, down with King Harold. His time has come. Let’s cancel him. Don’t forget to follow us at Pod Save the UK.

 

Nish Kumar I just said that. It’s nice to know how engaged you are in the process of making this podcast. I literally just said all of that.

 

Coco Khan Sorry, I have a very short term memory. You know that about me.

 

Nish Kumar This very short term memory and there’s this.  What are you, Dory, from Finding Nemo?

 

Coco Khan Yet I can’t remember details about a very long time ago. It’s a mystery.

 

Nish Kumar Yeah, but that’s not short term memory. Your long term memory ie. the one that stretches back to 1066 is in perfect working order.

 

Coco Khan I’m learning a lot about myself today. Pod Save the UK is a Reduced Listening production for Crooked Media.

 

Nish Kumar Thanks to senior producer Musty Aziz and digital producer Alex “The Bish” Bishop.

 

Coco Khan Video editing was by Dan Hodgson and the music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.

 

Nish Kumar Thanks to our engineer David Dugahe.

 

Coco Khan The executive producers are Tanya Hines, Dan Jackson, Madeleine Herringer and there’s additional support from Ari Schwartz.

 

Nish Kumar Remember to hit subscribe for new shows on Thursdays on Amazon, Spotify, Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.