- 12 Mar 08, 03:25 PM
The slogan for the Budget - you mustn't grumble, it's not too bad.
Sure, the next year or two is not what we thought it'd be, but it's not all permanent damage to the economy we're facing.
In other words, while he is not dismissing the current problems as a mere blip, the chancellor is at least arguing that some of it is simply a temporary disturbance to normal service.
So, on the economy, the chancellor concedes that some growth in the next two years will be lost - and it won't come back later (which is in itself a major concession. His predecessor always assumed that any growth lost returned later).
But at least by 2010, the economy will be growing again at its normal rate. And there'll be no recession in the meantime.
The same pattern occurs on government borrowing. After several years of painfully slowly trying to bring it down, the chancellor is now actually predicting and allowing for more borrowing next year. Overall, the finances are £5-8bn a year worse than he'd expected last year.
But again, you mustn't grumble. The public finances improve with time, and there's only a modest new overall tax rise to help recoup some of the revenue lost during the slowdown.
Fair enough. But behind this scenario though, people might still find things to grumble about.
By 2010, on Mr Darling's forecasts, the economy is a little smaller than the Treasury had been expecting; prices are a little higher and while public spending will be the same, it won't go so far, in that world of higher prices.
And then above all, what if the next few years are far worse than the chancellor has allowed? With so much going on outside the UK, you really can't rule that out.
That may lead to full scale moaning.
The chancellor though, is chancing it - at least , until the next election.
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