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by GK Strategy 2nd March, 2017

How can the Government Sell ‘Budget 2017’ to the public?

This year’s Budget will be the last held in Spring, and the last to take place before the UK starts the formal process of exiting the European Union. In such uncertain times, column inches and TV airtime are being filled with speculation about what major tax changes will be announced by the Chancellor and how the UK’s economy is holding up.

As important as this economic analysis is, we decided to take a look at the communication strategy the Government might adopt.

Who will this Budget be for? Which voters will be being targeted? How will the Government frame it?

UK businesses and overseas investors

The Conservative Party is keen to strengthen the idea that they are the only pro-business party. However, this has been tested in recent years with the introduction of the National Living Wage, the Apprenticeship Levy, and the potential for business rates to increase. Expect the Chancellor to argue that growth can only boom under the Tories, and that they are onside of all businesses from the shopkeeper to the FTSE 100 Chief Executive. How will he do this? There may be transitional agreements for business rate increases to ease the blow, and expect a declaration that “Britain is open for business” with low corporation tax levels presented as a magnet for potential new non-EU investors.

Taxes

The Chancellor is not one for flashy giveaways and is keen to draw back from the smoke and mirrors politics of the Osborne years. He prefers to portray an image of competence and as a “steady hand” – he wants the electorate to trust him through measured, moderate tax reforms. This style change was typified by his decision to stop the Spring budget altogether (save for this year), moving to one fiscal event held in Autumn to enable better policy consultation before the next tax year begins. His key message is anti-message – less bluster, less headlines to make way for a more responsible policy making environment.

The Chancellor may look to build on the Prime Minister’s “mission” to make Britain “a country that works for everyone”, and deliver a message that appeals directly to lower earning households, explaining that the Government will be raising the income tax threshold again and the National Living Wage. This will continue the Government’s long standing argument that they, over Labour, are “on the side of working people”. Any changes to the pensions tax relief could be presented as being “fiscally responsible” and “fair”, taxing more wealthy individuals slightly more to help pay down the UK’s debt.

Brexit preparation

The Chancellor was a fan of telling the media his work is focused on ensuring the UK’s economy is “match fit” for Brexit. We should expect the Chancellor to perhaps over-emphasise the positive growth figures since the Brexit vote, but also warn of potential economic dark clouds on the horizon. However, the intention of any negative warnings could be spun to convince voters that with potential uncertainty and obstacles to come, only the Conservatives should be trusted with the keys to Downing Street. We should then expect the Labour Party to retaliate with accusations of a “chaotic Brexit” and state the Government has no plan.

We at GK will be looking out for the various buzzwords explained above, and as always a key measure of the strength of their message will be in the TV and radio studios in Westminster where Government ministers get into spinning mode.

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