One of the chief weapons that a Chancellor has at budget time is the element of surprise. He can use it to wrong foot his opposite number and make him look ill informed and under prepared.
But in his desperation to control the news agenda and spin the Pre Budget Report, Alistair Darling forewent his natural advantage. By leaking virtually every major part of his report he enabled George Osborne to pre-prepare virtually every paragraph of his penetrating speech. And rarely has a politician taken such full advantage of such an opportunity. It was like a footballer who had been off his game coming back into form and scoring a 35 yard volley after the opposing defender gave him the ball.