Let's be clear. For the career of Gordon Brown this was a good budget. He threw some red meat to the left of the Labour Party by directing more money towards child benefit and tax credits, but then appeared to announce a tax cut. The truth, as ever, with Gordon Brown is somewhat more complicated.
I noticed that most of the sweeteners were to take effect from April 2008 while many of the tax rises were immediate. From what all the commentators are saying it seems that there is an overall rise in the tax take, especially for middle income families. These are the families who will vote to keep marginal Labour MPs in their seats or not. On the basis of what I have seen so far I think the likelihood is 'not'. However, there is a big 'BUT'. If they manage to spin this 2p off income tax as a real terms cut it will transform people's view of Brown from being a tax hiker to a tax cutter. If people ignore the bad effects of abolishing the 10p rate (which Brown himself introduced) and concentrate on the 2p cut he will have achieved his aim. One person commenting in the previous thread said "I have voted Conservative for nearly 25 years, but now see Brown as the tax-cutter." Quite an astonishing thing for a Conservative to say after Brown's 99 tax rises.
Opinion seems to be split on who is going to gain from these tax changes and who will lose out. It seems to me that people at the bottom of the income scale (under £18,000) will lose out but those who are earning £40-60k will also be hit by a big rise in National Insurance, which won't be totally offset by the increase in the threshold to £43,000. However, if the likes of the IFS are confused about the implications, don't blame me if I am too!
So my conclusion is this. In the short term this will be seen as a triumph for Gordon Brown personally and a further boost to his hopes of taking over from Tony Blair. But I think once the small print is read, many people, including Labour MPs, may come to revise that opinion.
Anyway, on 18 Doughty Street tonight we have three programmes looking at the economic and political consequences of the budget.
7-8pm Up Front Budget Special: Guests Nick Palmer MP (Lab), Mark Francois MP (Con, Treasury spokesman), Lord Newby (LibDem, Treasury spokesman)
8-9pm Your Money Special, concentrating on the tax changes
10-11pm Vox Politix with Warwick Lightfoot (Con, London Mayoral candidate and former Treasury Special Adviser), Andrew Constantine (Eng Dems, Tax adviser), Charles Miller (Public policy consultant) and Ashley Crossley (Con, tax barrister)