Reaction to the Budget
Unsurprisingly, the Sunday newspapers contain a more thoughtful and considered analysis of the Budget than the instant reaction in Thursday's newspapers.
David Smith argues in the Sunday Times (Business, p4) that the budget "was definitely not a bang, and only just qualified as a whimper." He points out that there were few individual tax measures of any significance and suggests that "After eight years, either Brown has run out of ideas or he has decided that he has tinkered enough." Commenting on the council tax refund for pensioners financed by timing changes in oil companies North Sea tax payments, he writes: "Pensioners, the main budget beneficiaries, have votes. Oil companies don't."
Andrew Rawnsley argues that "politicians of all parties have already indicated an intention not so much to win votes as to buy them" (Observer, p29). Whilst conceding that Gordon Brown "did not indulge in an extravagant giveaway", he says that "his performance was still striking for the unashamed manner in which he lunged at particular segments of the market." Rawnsley also criticises the Liberal Democrats for targeting first time buyers by raising the threshold of stamp duty and the Conservatives for offering a discount on council tax bills for the elderly. He says that the Conservatives message in contradictory. "From one mouth of the Tory Party, Michael Howard scorned Labour's sweeteners as unaffordable. From the other, the shadow chancellor said he would match their chips and shovel more on to the table."
Matthew d'Ancona's column for the Sunday Telegraph (p21) argues that "the true political significance of this Budget did not lie in its pre-election gimmicks" but in "communicating that only one party can now deliver economic stability." Ministers see the public's general sense of economic prosperity as Labour's best hope of a third substantial election victory. D'Ancona also questions the Conservative's 'Vote now, pay later' slogan. "Today's electorate, already immersed in personal debt and habituated to living on the tick, may not find the warning 'Vote now, pay later' as frightening as their parents might have. Indeed, the may find it positively appealing."