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Welcome to the government's mid-life crisis

by David Campbell on Dec 05, 2012 at 08:58

Welcome to the government's mid-life crisis

Recent research – admittedly on chimpanzees – has confirmed that general happiness and contentment troughs in middle age, before increasing again with the advance of years.

The government, which will deliver today’s Autumn Statement on exactly the midway point between the formation of a coalition and the expected 2015 election, might well relate to our ape cousins.

Because the administration has definitely mislaid its mojo. Like many entering the fifth age of life, the prospect of radical change as the certainties of early life have evaporated has become tempting.

The idea of jacking it all and moving to the country to, y’know, open that café it’s always dreamed about, or maybe launch a multibillion pound capital investment, has never seemed so alluring.

As is usually the case with midlife crises however, some kind of compromise will be sought with the responsibilities that have accrued with the passage of years.

Rather than abandoning its commitments entirely and metaphorically taking off to work with homeless children in Belize, a token of freedom maybe all that is required – the civic equivalent of buying a red sportscar.

And so we get to the rather conflicted group of measures which have been floated to appear in today’s statement.

Variously Osborne is said to be revamping Labour’s much reviled private finance initiative, reducing pensions relief on the wealthy less than nine months after he dropped the top tax bracket, reversing direction on tax policy for large corporations, boosting funding for schools, and planning a tax giveaway for motorists.

At this point George Osborne – who at 41 and as one of our younger chancellors might seem a little youthful for this sort of thing – appears to be servicing his self-made commitments like a reluctant boomer sticking with the wife and mortgage, his heart no longer in it.

The danger is that half-hearted measures in opposing directions may mean we end up with the worst of both worlds. The government may well be hoping that like the apes, it grows into some form of acceptance and contentment in later life.    

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