Instantaneous comment on a Budget that Brown has crawled over has proved an unwise game to play. The next few days will determine whether Darling's lifeless speech, which Peter Mandelson’s fingerprints were embedded into, withstands the scrutiny it will come under.
The chances are that it will, even if the growth forecasts are not sustainable. Fraser Nelson, who usually takes much pleasure in ripping Brown’s efforts apart, can’t find much to moan about:
Unless there is something buried so deep in the Red Book that I haven't seen it, then it is as benign a budget as we could have realistically hoped for under the circumstances.
But, of course, it wasn't a Budget; more of an election rallying cry. All Darling needed to say was: ‘We are for the many, not the few. We’re the people who got you through the worst recession in memory, we took the tough responsible decisions, trust us. Why take risks with the other lot? This is no time for novices.’
Instead we had an hour of therapy, as Darling attempted to keep us all happy until after election. We got the dividing lines, the rabbits and a well delivered wheeze about Lord Ashcroft, which apart from keeping his name up in lights, won’t achieve much.
The warning signs about the painful cuts to come were neatly left out of anything Darling had to say, and issued in the form of press releases, dressed up as “efficiency savings”.
So, we wait to see if the Darling medicine works and the patient is kept happy. As discussed, if the pills do their job, and Labour hold on to power, it may prove very difficult for Ed Balls to fulfil his ambition to become Chancellor. AD4PM, anyone?
This was a non-budget for the next six weeks, not for the real world that will exist after polling day. Darling fired the starting gun, as he set out how Labour will fight the election campaign, so let’s get on with it.