Peter Hoskin

PBR 2008 and PBR 2009: a difference which may not make much difference

PBR 2008 and PBR 2009: a difference which may not make much difference
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Yep, it's that time of the year again: the run-up to the Pre-Budget Report, when we hear tales of splits between Number 10 and the Treasury on how they should approach the fiscal mess we're in.  According to today's Sunday Telegraph, and going off rumblings on Whitehall, Darling is pushing for a more expansive package of cuts.  Whereas Brown – and Ed Balls, natch – would prefer to emphasise all that investment, investment, investment.

In which case, I was tempted to just copy-and-paste a post I wrote last year, on a similar subject, and at almost exactly the same time in the political cycle.  Its point was that stories about tension between Brown and Darling could work to undermine Labour's overall economic message.  As it happens, that's still the case.  And, like then, I still think that the measures in the PBR will hardly match up to the scale of the debt mountain.

But it's worth emphasising one difference between then and now (and between now and the last Budget in April, even).  In the intervening period, Brown has – in a mumbling, reluctant kind of way – admitted the need for cuts.  And that, by itself, is enough to add a little bit of narrative uncertainty into the mix.  It's even got one or two Tories I've spoken to fearful that this PBR could help Labour claw back some lost ground on fiscal sanity.