Peter Hoskin

The Budget is a bigger opportunity for the Tories than for Labour

The Budget is a bigger opportunity for the Tories than for Labour
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Last night's Dispatches programme was a concentrated double blow for Labour.  Not only did the limelight burn more unflatteringly on their party, but it has also undermined their careful Budget operation.  For the next few days, at least, it's possible that broken politics may trump the broken economy in the public mind.  And Alistair Darling is going to have a difficult, if not impossible, task in bridging that chasm of "distrust and disbelief" with his prescriptions tomorrow.

It doesn't help the Chancellor's cause that, by most accounts, we're going to get an unconvincing and unspectacular Budget – some spin about lower borrowing forecasts; none of the tax rises that Peter Mandelson has said we'll need eventually; and an insufficient bundle of spending cuts, centred around that old favourite, "efficiency savings".  Chris Giles of the FT is already calling it a "Budget for losers".  The losers, in this case, being Labour.

In which case, this could be a winning week for the Conservatives – and one of the most important in David Cameron's time as Tory leader.  If they can deliver a sincere response to this latest political scandal, and continue with clear and punchy attacks on Labour's fiscal record, then the entire election campaign could tilt decisively in their direction.  Stay tuned, so to speak.