A political emergency
This was quite simply another Budget - an emergency Budget - just 10 weeks after the last one. The emergency was not financial but political.
The revolt over the scrapping of the 10p tax band was so serious that ministers feared defeat in the Commons - a defeat which would have led to calls for the prime minister to quit. In addition, Gordon Brown feared being the first Labour leader to lose a by-election to the Tories in two decades.
Thus, the chancellor has brought forward an expensive package, paid for by extra borrowing and which helps millions of people who were not losers from the scrapping of the 10p rate.
There are perfectly good economic arguments for:
- helping hard-hit families at a time of economic insecurity
- extending borrowing to pay for it when times are tough
- increasing tax allowances as the most efficient and least bureaucratic way to help the 10p tax losers
Those arguments did not persuade the chancellor 10 weeks ago. Only a political emergency has been enough to do that.