It’s the sugar, stupid

George Osborne and the art of delivering bad news

You have to hand it to George Osborne, he knows his way around a headline.

“Here, look at the shiny shiny,” he said, as he pulled out the sugar levy. The public — or Twitter, at least — were too busy focussing on the sugar tax to take much notice of the downgrade in growth forecasts.

It’s a tricky thing, delivering bad news, but Osborne nailed the classic ‘distract and confuse’ tactic.

Popular topics

Tracking all mentions of #budget2016, below are the most commonly mentioned themes:

  1. Cuts 5.12%
  2. Sugar levy on soft drinks 4.36%
  3. Education 4.24%
  4. Savings/ISA 2.35%
  5. Growth 1.93%
  6. Corporation tax 1.89%
  7. Capital gains tax 1.36%
  8. Pensions 1.29%
  9. EU referendum and Brexit 1.10%
  10. Oil/gas 1.08%
  11. Fuel duty 1.04%
  12. Infrastructure 0.95%
  13. Tax allowance 0.89%
  14. Deficit 0.87%
  15. GDP 0.79%
  16. Climate change 0.77%
  17. Flood defences and insurance 0.77%
  18. Stamp duty 0.66%
  19. Tax avoidance 0.55%
  20. Inflation target 0.36%
  21. Homelessness 0.34%
  22. Alcohol 0.15%
  23. Tobacco 0.14%
  24. Downgrade 0.03%

The only thing Twitter cared about more than the sugar levy was cuts. This has to be qualified by the fact that ‘cuts’ is a very broad topic, covering cuts to healthcare, education, foreign aid, etc.

Growth was revised down for 2016 to 2% compared with 2.4% at the time of the autumn statement for 2015 and 2016. To say no one cares would be an overstatement, but whilst the attention grabbing sugar levy — or BruTax to our Scottish cousins— may not have confused, it certainly did distract.

Total tweets captured: 72,450 tweets (plus 129,188 retweets)

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