The Surrealist Budget

If this budget were a painting it would be an exemplar of surrealism. The epitome of the absurd came with the suggestion that borrowing £167 billion this year is somehow a virtue, something we can all be pleased about. Similarly, that we should all take a collective sigh of relief at the fact that this has been the deepest recession on record, yet it wasn't as bad as we had feared. It was almost like twisted schadenfreude - a celebration not of someone else's misfortune but our own.

Then we had the hallmark of a Labour set-piece speech, the re-announcement. Although this being the surrealist budget, the Chancellor re-announced a Conservative policy on stamp duty relief for first time buyers. Next we had the bizarre. If your bank refuses to lend to you money as a business you can appeal their decision to a new independent regulator who will then force them to lend to you. Does that mean that the regulator will then underwrite the loan if the bank's original credit decision was right and the loan goes bad? How does that fit within wider financial regulation and capital adequacy requirements? Why not simply let the Government become a bank and lend directly to business and cut out the financial middle man? I think we know where that got us.

Then of course there was what wasn't in the Budget at all. The impact of the freezing of personal tax allowances. With inflation running at 3% that's a real terms financial hit for everyone paying income tax. And the other missing piece of the equation, the departmental spending plans. Yes, this was a budget that Salvador Dali would have been proud. The problem for the country is that it did nothing to tackle the deficit and did nothing to set out a clear economic strategy for the future. But there again, perhaps Alistair Darling has his eye on taking up art classes in the very near future.