Martin Bright

Let’s Pray For No Rabbits

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James has predicted that there will be a good news element to the Budget that no one has yet predicted. I do hope there is good news, but I also hope it isn't presented with a last-minute flourish. The 10 pence tax fiasco should be warning enough on this front. 

Judged on his set-piece performances so far, however, Alistair Darling is not a rabbit-out-of-the hat kind of guy. I am delighted that the indications so far suggest  he is concentrating on the employment situation and that he has fended off some of the pressure from next door. I fear Matthew is right when he says that there are signs of the Prime Minister's footprints on the pre-briefings: the phrase "invest to grow" is pure old-fashioned New Labour in this sense.

This is not a Budget for clever tricks and phrasemaking. This should be about practical measures to help individuals and businesses find their own innovative ways out of this mess. To some this may sound like I have made the final stage of my political journey to the free-market right. But I happen to remember the last recession. There were plenty of cynical state-driven schemes to pull people off the dole to fiddle the unemployment figures. But these only worked -- I refer readers once more to the case of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme -- when people were given the space to imagine their own solutions to the problem.