Expert Blog

This is what a White Van Budget looks like, George

Make no mistake about it, White Van Man (and Woman!) holds the key to the result of the forthcoming General Election.

How that bloc of individuals vote will decide if there is an outright Tory government, whether UKIP will surge to perhaps hold the balance of power, or whether Ed Miliband will sneak through to form a government run by his soul-mates in the Scots Nats.

Which is why, in this week’s Budget, George Osborne will focus again and again on the needs of the owners and drivers of those 3.3 million white vans that are the lifeblood of the UK economy.

Unless he’s an idiot hell-bent on electoral suicide, that is. Which he’s not.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George has already indicated in his Autumn Statement – his other big economic set-piece of each year – that he knows the vital significance of White Van Driver and their families.

And so he should. These ‘blue collar’ voters are prime targets for UKIP, Labour are forever playing the class “roots” card in their direction, and – worst of all – they often feel deeply disillusioned with politicians. So, what does he need to do?

First and foremost, make White Van Man and Woman feel better off.

They work damn hard, business is clearly growing, all the surveys show they are ever more confident about the future of their enterprise… but where is the Feel Good Factor that makes it all worthwhile?

They work all the hours God sends, they know they are in a better place, but why can’t they feel it? How long do they have to wait until they actually feel the benefit of all that hard graft in their wallet?

That moment must be now.

Osborne must put more cash in their pocket by significantly raising the level at which people start to pay tax – £12,500 is the minimum.

Hand-in-hand with that, he must put his boot on the neck of the fuel companies to keep diesel and petrol pieces at a minimum.

Crude oil prices on both US and UK markets are hitting record lows this week, with more falls predicted, yet forecourt prices are rising all over the country.

Even with experts declaring, this week, that they will plunge to under $40 a barrel, somehow the fuel giants are feeling free to cash in and stealthily inch pump prices north again.

Haven’t you noticed them increasing? One Esso petrol station near me in West London has gone up by 7p a litre in recent weeks.

If anything, Osborne should vow that the next Tory government will cut fuel taxes – and challenge other parties to match his pledge on such a business-boosting measure for White Van Man.

He must not only vow that the dreaded ‘fuel price escalator’ has fallen under the wheels of a White Van forever, but also slash those ludicrous and expensive ‘Green’ regulations and red tape that so handicap an industry comprising so many one-man-operators and small businesses.

The Road Transport industry as a whole believes that there are 142 pieces of stifling, profit-draining legislation that could be swept away without anyone suffering.

Relaxation of both EU and UK employment laws in this sector would be another welcome boost by Mr Osborne.

It was hugely welcome when, in his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor unveiled a five-year £15 billion nationwide road-building programme. 
That long overdue plan to improve, widen, repair and increase the nation’s motorways and A-road network cannot come soon enough and will significantly boost the £50 billion contribution to the economy of all those white vans.

He must go out of his way to re-assert the importance of it in the next government – while making sure that White Van Man is aware that a future Labour government, already making major spending pledges, will as always be highly likely to help pay for them by axing such vital infrastructure projects as this ambitious but overdue roads plan.

For too long, of course, too many politicians and members of the metropolitan elite in London have been rudely dismissive of White Van Man.

That’s why, George Osborne this week needs to show what a crime it has been by generations of politicians to ignore the needs of White Van Man for so long. It is time for him to recognise his – and her – importance, to make their life and industry easier, to translate the reward for all that hard work into money in their pocket.

Do that properly and George Osborne may well win the General Election for the Conservatives.

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