Half Hezza, half Lawson
George Osborne doesn't want to go down in history simply as the chancellor who made record spending cuts. He wants to be seen as a great reformer. I'm told that he has his eye on emulating two of the Big Beasts of the last Tory era - Michael Heseltine and Nigel Lawson.
Hezza, you may recall, promised to intervene "before breakfast, lunch and dinner" when he was president of the Board of Trade. George Osborne's activism will include new style enterprise zones designed to attract businesses to areas struggling to grow, more apprenticeships and a new emphasis on vocational education.
Lawson is still revered in Tory circles as the great tax reformer. Today the chancellor will use a little read document produced by his own creation - the Office of Tax Simplification - to promise an era of lower, simpler taxes. The office identified no fewer than 1042 tax reliefs and proposed abolishing a raft of them ranging from tax-free coal for miners to luncheon vouchers and meals on cycle-to-work-days. Much more significant, though, were their proposals to merge national insurance and income tax and review the workings of inheritance tax.
National Insurance - created by an Act of Parliament exactly a century ago to pay for old age pensions - has long since become just another pot of Treasury cash. Gordon Brown raised it to pay for the NHS after the 2001 election and Alistair Darling raised it again to help balance the books after the banking crisis. The fact that it has different thresholds from income tax and is administered by employers in a different way can, it's argued, lead to perverse outcomes and high bureaucratic costs. It also allows for easier stealth tax rises. It will be fascinating to see how far and how fast Osborne the reformer feels he can go.
Osborne will know his history well enough to know that a Budget hailed on the day can turn into one condemned long after. Lawson's boldest Budget - in 1988 - cut the basic and the top rate of tax. It was blamed by many later for fuelling - instead of curbing - the excessive growth of the time. That's a problem Osborne would love to be able to worry about but he will know that his Budget - like that one - is likely to be judged later by whether the chancellor was right to stick to his economic policy or should have taken the chance to change it.
PS Having written the line half Hezza and half Lawson I'm finding it hard to get the image of a chubby short chap with flowing blonde locks out of my head...