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How George Osborne Stole One Of The Lib Dems' Main Policies And Won

The chancellor has announced you won't pay tax on earnings of up to £11,000. Before the last election David Cameron said this would be unaffordable.

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Back in 2010 David Cameron faced down Nick Clegg and said it was impossible to lift everyone earning less than £10,000 out of income tax.

The clip above, recorded during the leaders' debates, shows the Conservative leader attacking the Liberal Democrats' flagship policy of lifting the low-paid out of income tax altogether.

Turning to Clegg, Cameron explains why the Lib Dems' flagship policy is unaffordable: "I would love to take everyone out of their first £10,000 of income tax. ... We cannot afford it."

Five years later and Conservative chancellor George Osborne has confirmed that the personal allowance – the amount of money the government allows you to earn in a year without paying income tax – will hit £11,000. That's up from £6,475 when the coalition came to power.

Osborne, an effective political operator, agreed to the policy when the coalition was formed in 2010. But somewhere along the line he has also managed to completely co-opt it, taking the credit along the way.

This is how Osborne announced the latest increase to the personal allowance in today's budget – emphasising "we" at every opportunity.

We believe that work should pay – and families should keep more of the money they earn. When we came to office, the personal tax-free allowance stood at just £6,500. We set ourselves the goal – even in difficult times – of raising that allowance to £10,000 by the end of the parliament. We have more than delivered on that promise.

In two weeks' time it will reach £10,600.

That's a huge boost to the incomes of working people and one of the reasons we have a record number of people in work. Today I can announce that we go further.

The personal tax-free allowance will rise to £10,800 next year – and then to £11,000 the year after. That's £11,000 you can earn before paying any income tax at all. It means the typical working taxpayer will be over £900 a year better off. It's a tax cut for 27 million people and means we've taken almost 4 million of the lowest paid out of income tax altogether.


It is a coalition policy, so is signed off by the Lib Dems – but Osborne, as chancellor, has the right to announce every increase to the public.

Which means that it's always reported as an Osborne announcement:

Personal tax free allowance to rise to £10,800 next year, then £11,000 the year after. 'A tax cut for 27m people' says Osborne #Budget2015

Osborne says lifting tax-free personal allowance to £11,000 from 2016/17. Tax cut for 27m people. #Budget2015


We're announcing tax cuts for 27 million pple – with further rises in the personal allowance & above-inflation increase to the 40p threshold

Personal tax-free allowance will rise to £10,800 next yr & £11,000 the year after – making the typical taxpayer £900 better off #Budget2015

.@Conservatives would go further - raise the personal allowance to £12,500, & the higher rate threshold to £50,000 over the next parliament

And the Lib Dems are left desperate and shouting, trying to remind people it was their idea all along:

Lib Dems shouting "We did!" and "Our policy!" as George Osborne announces personal allowance will rise to £11,000 #Budget2015

Lib Dem MP shouting 'we did' when Osborne addresses changes to personal tax free allowance. #Budget2015

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at

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