Peter Hoskin

Last orders in the last chance saloon?

Last orders in the last chance saloon?
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It's the set of headlines which Labour must have dreaded after their recent progress in the polls.  The Times: "The axeman dithereth ... but the taxman cometh".  The Guardian: "Darling soaks the rich ... and the rest of us too".  The Mail: "The Buck Passer's Budget".  And so on and so on.  It doesn't look too good inside the papers either.  The FT rails against a  "lack of clarity on public spending plans", while the Independent says that "rarely has a pre-Budget report promised so much and delivered so little".  The Sun's opposition may not be too surprising, but it's there in bucketfuls: "Britain is staring into the abyss. After yesterday's performance that abyss has got deeper."  Only the Mirror beats the drum for Labour, arguing that the Tories would have turned the recession into a "Great Depression".

There's every chance that the government will have to endure a turbulent couple of weeks before Christmas.  The reaction to the PBR, and its tax rises, will most likely be aggravated by the fresh expenses revelations today.  Looking back on this period at the start of the New Year, I imagine quite a few Labour MP will actually be disappointed.  Both of their party's massive policy setpieces - the Queen's Speech and yesterday's Budget - seem to have unravelled in record time.  And they'll be left with scant opportunity to change the national mood music before the general election.