July 10: Osborne facing Budget scrutiny

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THE Labour Party’s hostile reaction to George Osborne’s Budget was predictable.

Not only did the Opposition suffer a heavy election defeat but they have now suffered the ignominy of flagship policies, like the Living Wage and an additional tax on bank profits, being stolen by a Chancellor of the Exchequer who clearly holds the view that there should be no exclusivity on the best ideas.

More surprising, however, was the response of business leaders – the self-same individuals who urged the country to vote Conservative on May 7 in order to spare Britain from the profligacy of a Labour and Scottish Nationalists alliance at a time when the economy recovery is still so fragile in Yorkshire and the rest of the North.

Even though they will be the beneficiaries of planned reductions in corporation tax, they believe the Living Wage – a halfway house between the current Minimum Wage and the wishes of prominent clergy like the Archbishop of York – will compromise their profits and ability to invest. This remains to be seen, and particularly in the supermarket sector. For, while Mr Osborne hopes major retailers will raise wages, the priority of Leeds-based Asda appears to be the latest price war with its competitors. Will this be at the expense of its staff? Time will tell.

Yet, if Mr Osborne’s bold Budget is to suceed in eradicating the deficit and reducing the over-dependence of many families on the Welfare State, he requires not only a propsering economy but companies fulfilling their side of the equation. For, with the widely-respected Institute of Fiscal Studies warning that 13 million families could be worse off, the Chancellor will need all the help possible to demonstrate that his reforms are fair – and not coming at the expense of those individuals from poorer backgrounds, and who are trying their best in spite of their circumstances.

A daunting task: Abuse inquiry must not repeat Chilcot delays

THE convoluted history of public inquiries – exemplified by the interminable delays to Sir John Chilcot’s investigation into the decision-making that preceded the Iraq war – does not bode well as Judge Lowell Goddard opens long-awaited hearings into historic allegations of child sexual abuse and whether there was an Establishment cover-up.

Six years and one month after Gordon Brown ordered the Chilcot inquiry, the final report is still awaited because of the very generous time being afforded to key witnesses – including senior politicians and advisers from the Blair government – to check the veracity of the final findings before publication. Given that this report was supposed to inform future governments on military intervention, it does not make David Cameron’s task any easier if airstrikes are deemed necessary against Islamic State targets in Syria.

Despite this, Judge Goddard’s invidious task is even more daunting because it took a year – and three attempts – for Home Secretary Theresa May to appoint a suitably qualified individual who could command the confidence of victims. Yet the sheer volume of allegations means that this is already destined to be the largest inquiry of its kind ever undertaken by Britain and an interim report is not expected for at least three years. She has a difficult balance to strike. The New Zealander has to hear the voices of the victims and ensure allegations are investigated purposefully, but she does need to do so expeditiously so she does not face the opprobrium which greeted the latest delays to the Chilcot report and calls 
for the inquiry to be brought to a halt.

Fighhting back: Facing up to extremis threat

IN THE week that The Yorkshire Post used the 10th anniversary of the July 7 bombings to call for a national debate on how best to counter extremism, the new #FightBackStartsHere campaign reveals the desire of community leaders, charities and others to utilise their collective influence.

Their joint letter, co-signed by, amongst others, the family of Holderness-born aid worker David Haines who was butchered to death in Syria last year, could not be more powerful or pertinent. It says: “We reach across the boundaries of our backgrounds to come together in unity with one aim in mind – to protect our communities, our families, our young people and our way of life.”

If the grooming and radicalisation of young Muslims by poisoned individuals is to be countered, it can’t just be left to those politicians whose interventions, however well-intended, invariably polarise opinion – it is the responsibility of all. The fightback has started.