Osborne Sets Out Budget Surplus Law

By Rowan Williams
  • – New law will ensure future budget surplus
  • – Egyptian police foil extremist attack on Luxor
  • – Aung San Suu Kyi to visit China


Chancellor George Osborne will today set out legislation ensuring the government runs a budget surplus during periods of growth. The Chancellor will explain the proposals in his annual Mansion House speech on Wednesday. Such a law would legally prevent governments from spending more than their tax revenue when the economy is growing. In his speech, Osborne will describe the law as a way to “fix the roof while the sun is shining”. Currently, the government plans to eliminate the UK’s structural deficit by April 2018. The independent Office for Budget Responsibility is expected to play an important role in the implementation of Osborne’s proposed law. Debt, and the UK deficit, has been central to UK political discourse since the financial crisis of 2008. The announcement has been met with some scepticism similar to that when the Conservatives pledged to enshrine laws preventing tax rises; observers have noted that while the Conservative government had already planned to run a budget surplus in future, the law could create problems for the Labour Party in future.

Egyptian security services have foiled a suspected terrorist attack on the tourist city of Luxor, authorities have said. According to reports, three armed men tried to storm a barricade near the Karnak temple. After the first two men were killed in a shootout, the third overcame the barricade before blowing himself up. Four people were also injured in the attack. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Egypt has seen a string of extremist attacks from groups based in the Sinai Peninsula, with two members of the country’s tourism and antiquities police force shot dead near Giza by extremists last week. Extremists have targeted tourism sites in the past to try and deny the government a key source of revenue. Tourism revenues have already fallen in the wake of the country’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Luxor has previously been the site of an extremist attack: in 1997, jihadist militants killed 58 people in an attack on a group of tourists.

Aung San Suu Kyi will visit China for the first time on Wednesday, in a visit aimed at strengthening ties and reducing tensions between Myanmar and China. Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s opposition party leader and a Nobel Peace laureate, will meet with both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang during her four-day visit. The visit comes ahead of Burmese free elections in November, where Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party is expected to make significant gains. Suu Kyi’s visit shows the desire of both China and Suu Kyi to strengthen relations. Recently, relations have worsened after domestic Burmese military operations resulted in several accidental civilian deaths in China, while Burmese citizen protests have stalled a China-backed dam project.

The Papers

A range of stories makes the headlines today. The Financial Times leads with news that Chancellor George Osborne is seeking to “secure” his legacy with a “budget surplus law”, whereby the UK governments would run a budget surplus most years. The Guardian leads with the same story, describing the plan as a turn to “‘Micawber’ economics” – a plan that may “make life uncomfortable” for the Labour Party. Mr Micawber was a character from the Dickens novel David Copperfield synonymous with prudence, the paper writes. The Independent leads with news that Conservative Party MP Nadine Dorries faces a “challenge over campaign ‘smears’”. One rival candidate for Dorries’ parliamentary seat during the general election has filed a petition citing “false accusations”. Should the case succeed, Dorries “could lose her seat”, the paper writes. The Times leads with a report on David Miliband’s “pain over Ed’s Labour failure”. In an interview with the paper, David Miliband describes his fears over the Labour Party election campaign run by his brother, former Labour Leader Ed Miliband. The Daily Telegraph leads with news of the first ever birth from a “child’s ovary”, in what the paper says will give “Hope for hundreds of young cancer victims”. The paper writes how one woman, 28, has given birth to a child with her own ovaries that were removed from her body aged 13 before she began chemotherapy.

British Media on China

On Aung San Suu Kyi’s China visit: The visit to China by Burmese opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi received coverage from most UK media outlets. The BBC writes that the visit comes “at a time of tension between the two countries”, adding that the visit will also highlight the “notable absence” of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo. The Guardian’s agency piece reports that the visit “takes place against a background of decline in Chinese influence in Burma”. The Independent writes that China is attempting to “woo” Suu Kyi during her visit. The article, written by the author of a Suu Kyi biography banned in China, notes that Suu Kyi is a “problematic figure” for the authorities in China. The Daily Telegraph’s piece focuses more on Suu Kyi herself, asking “where is Aung San Suu Kyi now?” According to the paper, Suu Kyi “faces accusations she has turned her back on human rights causes” such as that of the Rohingya minority people.

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