British budget 'bloodbath' a make-or-break gamble: press

23rd June 2010, Comments 0 comments

British commentators were taken aback Wednesday by the coalition's "bloodbath" budget, warning the huge spending cuts and tax rises were a gamble that could lead to the new government's demise.

Finance minister George Osborne unveiled his emergency budget Tuesday, announcing a levy on banks, increased taxation on goods and services and reduced benefits in a plan aimed at cutting a huge public deficit.

But with Britain's recovery set to be weaker than expected, Osborne's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition also delivered tax cuts that were aimed at helping low paid workers and companies.

The extra measures aimed at sweetening the toughest budget in a generation did little to impress the Financial Times, however, which labelled it "savage."

"Nothing in the election campaign prepared the British public for this bloodbath," commented the business daily, which had backed the Conservatives at last month's elections that brought the party into power.

"The government must persuade the public that the overall balance of these changes is fair, in the teeth of a rejuvenated Labour party," that was ejected from office at the election after 13 years in power, said the paper.

"This gamble has defined the government. If it is seen to have failed, it will be finished."

The leftwing Guardian went even further, warning the measures could force the British economy "back into recession."

"This budget is a colossal gamble... Osborne's doctrinaire approach to deficit cutting risks not just slower growth and higher unemployment, but a fresh leg to the downturn."

Britain escaped from its deepest recession since the 1930s at the end of last year, but its growth remains weak and some commentators argue the cuts being made by the coalition come too early and will endanger the fragile recovery.

Some Conservative-supporting papers threw their weight behind the government's efforts to tackle Britain's financial mess, however.

The Times led praise of the budget, which it said "combined fiscal conservatism with concern for social justice."

And the Sun tabloid hailed Osborne's crackdown on the reliance on state benefit payments among some people who in reality were capable of going out to work.

"If, out of the ashes of Labour, Mr Osborne creates a self-reliant nation freed from benefit addiction, yesterday's pain will not be in vain."

© 2010 AFP

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