Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A cut-price Budget

Remarkably, Alastair Darling managed to be as tedious in 50 minutes as most people manage in two hours. He wasn't helped, it is fair to say, by the fact that he had effectively nothing to announce on the spending front. This was witnessed by the staggering triviality of the announcements that he did make - £26m to 'make homes greener', a capital fund of £12.5m for women entrepreneurs. This is not even of the order of spare change in Government terms; if the Department of Work and Pensions had rummaged down their sofas they would have been able to find more money than this.
The newsworthy bits were always going to be the economic forecasts and the new tax rises. Well, the forecasts are downgraded and he's put up taxes on beer, wine, spirits, fags and fast cars. All things considered, not an inspiring budget, and the only discernable theme is puritanism and austerity - never an easy sell. Cameron's response was good, and he at least does have a tune that's easy to hum - that Labour have squandered money while times were good, and have left themselves with no room to manoeuvre when the water got choppy. If he can make sure that message hits home, this might even be Darling's last budget as well as his first.

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