On Wednesday, Britain’s Chancellor, Alistair Darling, delivered his second budget. In his speech to the House of Commons, Darling forecast unprecedented peacetime borrowings as the UK attempted to bring itself out of the global financial crisis.

The reactions have been mixed:

The Seventies are back: The Seventies are back in our lives. TV may have been a lot better back then, fashion a lot worse and music, well, the less said about that the better. But the decade that finally killed off old Labour in government is our nearest point of reference for understanding the state we’re in today. In summary, our national finances are in a much worse position now than they were even at the point of maximum humiliation in 1976 when Denis Healey, the then Chancellor, held out the begging bowl to the International Monetary Fund for a £2.3bn bail-out. — Damien Reece, Daily Telegraph

A Robin Hood Budget, at last: This, at long last, was a Robin Hood Budget, taking from the rich to give to the poor. Arguably, if Gordon Brown had been so redistributive long ago, the government would be far more popular today. They couldn’t do it then. But today, with the City watching anxiously and the corpse of Prudence twitching in the corner of the Commons chamber, Mr Darling prepared to soak the rich. — Mary Riddell, Daily Telegraph

Too late to call the super-rich’s bluff: Taxation is the only easy way to restore a very small measure of sanity to the unjust rewards of the rich. These few, these happy few, still feel profoundly entitled to take what they like in salaries, impervious to shareholders trying to hold them to account. Monster bonuses, salaries and tax-free pensions have continued unabated, their recipients unashamed and untouched by public disgust or a sense of propriety in the face of so many losing their livelihoods. — Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

Darling as the Protector of the Vulnerable: In a return to the class politics Tony Blair and New Labour once sought to abolish, he aimed to craft a coalition of the middle class and needy against the hated rich. With a battery of goodies for pensioners – a bloc of voters that tends to turn out and vote – and promises of support for the young unemployed, Darling cast himself as the protector of the vulnerable, ready to do for today’s victims of recession what Thatcher’s Conservatives failed to do a generation ago. — Johnathan Freedland, The Guardian

Too Frail and Vague to Shore up Credibility: In his second Budget, the chancellor’s most important task was to explain how to put the UK’s public finances on a sustainable basis. Labour MPs were also hoping he would enhance his party’s popularity on the way to the election. He did better on the second than the first. The plan to raise the top rate of income tax to 50 per cent from next April was astute political tactics, although poor revenue raising. But the grim state of Britain’s books made bleak reading and the fragile optimism behind Mr Darling’s plan for getting from here to fiscal rectitude could not be disguised. — Editorial, Financial Times.com

Darling Writes History: For a Government that may not have very long to go, and a Chancellor who might otherwise find himself confined to the footnotes, some history was written yesterday. The national debt will climb to about 80 per cent of national income, the highest in at least half a century, taking us back to the days when the nation was still paying for two world wars and the founding of the welfare state, rather than a tragi-comic banking debacle. — Sean O’Grady, The Independent

The Top Ten Brownies of Budget 2009: This was a Budget of tricks, of bogus assumptions and of huge traps for the Conservatives. As Lord Lamont says, it was historic in its admission of failure. — Fraser Nelson, Spectator.co.uk

Darling gambles on economic growth: Aside from modest changes in personal finance, yesterday was not about gimmicks, but the bigger picture. It was about Mr Darling demonstrating to the nation that he has a solid grip of the public finances – albeit, in a worse state than at any time in the past 65 years – and that he knows how to turn things round. — Ross Lydall, The Scotsman

Did Wales lose out in Budget? It was a budget feared by ministers in Wales as none before had. There would be less money than expected for Welsh services in future, the only question was how much less. The Chancellor tried to emphasise the Government’s green credentials and increase in tax-free savings limits but it was the effect of “efficiency savings” that most worried assembly government ministers. – Phil Parry, BBC Wales

Not so Great Britain: Britain’s experience is a prime example of what is to come as economies are saddled with extra public debt. Contrary to earlier predictions, Britain’s economy is no longer expected to be the worst-performing among its peers in the Group of Seven (G7) rich countries. That only makes the deterioration in Britain’s public finances all the more extraordinary. — Economist.com

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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