Fraser Nelson

A reassuringly dull budget

A reassuringly dull budget
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This was a surprisingly subdued Budget, and for that Alistair Darling is to be commended. He must have resisted all manner of pressure from Brown to put in pre-election pyrotechnics. But the budget was what it should be: a punctuation mark on the sentence of the national economy. That sentence says "our finances are going to hell," and the Budget's high point is that we are doing so fractionally slower than we were expecting to last November.

Personally, I forgive Darling all the partisan stuff in his speech - this is a pre-election Budget after all. There is no act of wanton vandalism, like the 50p tax. Stamp duty on properties over 1m is rising from 4 percent to 5 percent, but does anyone seriously think this would not have happened under the Tories? And there was quite a bit of sense. Entrepreneurs’ tax relief for capital gains tax was doubled to £2 million. There was no extra splurge. All told, Darling did what he could to salvage his own reputation before he passes into history as the Chancellor who picked up the most poisoned of all chalices from his predecessor. The damage over the past decade could not be rectified or even cosmetically repaired at this five-minutes-to-midnight moment. He didn't spell out the extent of the cuts that are in prospect - but, even now, no party dares to.

It was a reassuringly dull Budget, and very different to the one Ed Balls would have delivered had he taken over last June as he wanted to do. Don't get me wrong, I think Labour's mishandling of the economy is near criminal. But unless there is something buried so deep in the Red Book that I haven't seen it, then it is as benign a budget as we could have realistically hoped for under the circumstances.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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