UK chancellor George Osborne said the budget on Wednesday will offer no giveaways and difficult decisions will still have to be made, as he seeks to drum up support for his Conservative Party before May’s election.
“This budget is all about securing a truly national recovery”, Osborne told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme yesterday. “No giveaways, no gimmicks, a budget for the long term.”
Osborne will use his final budget before the May 7 vote to try to convince voters the Tories are best placed to run Britain’s economy, while rebuffing accusations from the Labour opposition, led by Ed Miliband, that his party only privileges the wealthiest. With polls showing the Tories and Labour neck and neck, and both short of enough seats to gain a majority in the House of Commons, speculation about possible coalition deals is mounting.
Asked about UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage’s offer to support the Tories if they agree to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union this year, Osborne said it was “total nonsense,” though he stopped short of ruling out a deal altogether.
Farage “isn’t a credible participant in this election”, Osborne said. “Farage is not going to win seats in the House of Commons” and “voting for Nigel Farage makes Ed Miliband the likely prime minister,” he argued.
Polls show UKIP in third place with the support of about 15% of the electorate, though the party is predicted to win only a handful of the 650 seats in parliament because of the vagaries of Britain’s electoral system.
“The terms of my deal with the Tories would be very precise and simple,” Farage said in his book, The Purple Revolution,” serialised in the Telegraph newspaper yesterday.
“I want a full and fair referendum to be held in 2015 to allow Britain to vote on being in or out of the EU,” he said, while ruling out a formal coalition.
Labour’s finance spokesman Ed Balls didn’t respond yesterday when asked on the Marr show if he would completely rule out a deal with the Scottish National Party, which polls suggest will win most seats in Scotland to become the third largest party in the Commons.
“It’s not part of our plans,” Balls told Marr. “I’m not going to get involved in speculation about post-election deals. We’re fighting for a majority,” he said.
Osborne also left open the possibility he may agree to a televised debate with Balls, after shaking hands with the Labour spokesman when he challenged him to a one-to-one showdown.
“We’re going to see who else wants to be part of that,” Osborne said.
“I’ve got a very effective chief secretary, who I think would also want to be part of that debate,” he said, referring to Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat who’s No 2 at the Treasury in the current coalition.
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