Lowering expectations ahead of the budget was the little task that Labour successfully carried out yesterday. First, Liam Byrne is interviewed on the Daily Politics:
His central message: Labour would not have to raise taxes further -- other than those tax rises already announced and in the pipeline -- to meet its target of cutting the budget deficit in half by 2014.
He specifically ruled out a rise in VAT after the election, saying the upcoming increase in National Insurance would be enough to do the job.
The Chief Secretary said there would be "no big giveaway" come Budget Day.
Then, Alistair Darling rams home the message:
I don't think anyone's expecting some sort of Christmas-tree-of-a-Budget. They're not going to get anything like that. What you're going to get is a sensible Budget, a Budget for the times in which we live, a Budget for the future of the country.
Hmmm. This is all obvious stuff. Everything is under control; Labour have a plan; keep the patient happy this side of the election; and don’t frighten the voters about the horrors to come.
Now let’s move to the expected election timetable, which the BBC website sets out. Again, as polling day is certain to be 6 May, it’s all rather obvious.
But wait. We have to consider the mind of short-term tactical Brown.
It's not like him to walk down the path of the all-so-obvious. He will want to wrong-foot the Tories with some trumped-up dividing lines on Budget Day, as well as sending us voters a few morsels to chew on. Furthermore, there is no better way of throwing the Tories and LibDems election plans into disarray by seeking the dissolution when its least expected.
Be prepared. Brown will pull a few rabbits out of the hat in the coming weeks.