Pre Budget Report
There were some good bits in the Pre Budget report (as well as the pre-announced things, bringing forward increases in child benefits and other benefits from April to January was definitely the right thing to do), and it was a million times better than the increasingly desperate and pathetic "alternative" which the Tories are offering up.
But I think it is no coincidence that one of the features and weaknesses of the Pre Budget Report is that the only people who got a say about what went in it were a small number of clever technocrats. That's one of the reasons why I think it ended up being less good overall than could have been hoped and expected.
It might be that there wasn't actually much else that could have been done economically, but politically the government could have been bolder. One stat from the YouGov survey which highlights this. 60% of people supported the cut in VAT, no surprise that a tax cut benefiting everyone who buys stuff gets majority support. But 72% backed the increase in tax for those earning over £150,000. When there are significantly more people supporting a tax rise than a £12bn tax cut, politicians ought to sit up and take note.
The debate amongst most politicians and journalists seems still to be based on the assumption that eventually things will get back to how they used to be, and the question is how to make this happen in the minimal amount of time and with the minimum amount of bother to people (or in as Andrew Lansley from the Tories might put it, after a period where people get to enjoy the benefits of mass unemployment). Returning to how things used to be shouldn't be what we're aiming for, and would be impossible even if it were. It's like a search for a mixture of the undesirable and the unobtainable.
With the way the economic situation is developing, it is entirely possible that the Budget itself will bear very little relation to what was announced on Monday. But just to give an idea about the scale of the missed opportunity, consider this:
We now know that it would have been possible by 2010 for our government to have halved the number of children living in poverty, just as it promised to do more than a decade earlier, and even despite the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. This would have directly improved the lives of millions, helped the economy, and been as eloquent a statement of Labour's values and priorities as it is possible to imagine.
And instead? This week our leaders chose to cut different taxes, making sure that they'll fail to meet their promise on reducing child poverty, and to give bureaucrats new powers to cut the benefits of lone parents if they don't do what the regulations tell them to.