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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 05:52 GMT
All agree Budget is 'vote winner'

Wednesday's Budget speech brought consensus on three points - although it was a pretty dull affair it was a solid political pre-election Budget that succeeded in trumping the Tories.

It was a good budget for irate pensioners, but less appealing for certain civil service employees, says the Times.

It also wasn't great for pro-Euro campaigners, nor the person who has to mount an election campaign for the Conservative Party, it continues.

Mr Brown's "deliberately cunning pre-pre-election Budget" did come with some health warnings though.

The Times says promises of cash for health and education may encourage the attitude that the quest for efficiency doesn't apply to the NHS or schools.

And its front page headline - "The race for No 10 starts here" - suggests Brown may hope the Budget fuels his own aspirations to relocate next door.

Blackpool rock

The Chancellor's status is elevated somewhat with the Mirror's headline, "The Gord Giveth".

His "vote-winning" Budget was one for the ordinary people, says the paper.

A family on an average wage will be 4 a week better off, unless they smoke or drink heavily, it calculates.

From Tax Man to Axe Man
Daily Mail on Gordon Brown

It says instead of bribing voters with tax cuts, the chancellor rightly pumps money into services.

On the negative side, Mr Brown missed a chance to help homebuyers and his failure to deal with entry to the Euro is storing up problems for the future, it adds.

A front page comment in the Guardian says "the word election was stamped through the centre of Gordon Brown's Budget" like Blackpool in a stick of rock.

The message to voters was obvious - if you want spending cuts to finance lower taxes, Michael Howard's your man, but remember what happened the last time the Tories ruled.

Upbeat

The Sun admits the chancellor deserves credit for keeping the economy in good shape.

But increased borrowing will pour funds into largely unreformed public services, says the paper. So tax may rise after the election to pay off debts.

And is more cash for schools and hospitals, with no guarantee of value for money, really more than an election bribe? it asks.

People should be able to decide how to spend their own money rather than handing it over to the "nanny state" is the Sun's conclusion.

The Daily Telegraph agrees the chancellor is only postponing the tax pain to win votes.

Overall the Budget was, it says, pointless - none of the measures announced were big enough to register on the macro-economic scale.

Gordon Brown may as well have called it off and gone to Cheltenham where there was a "far better show going on", according to its leader writer.

Confounded critics

Workers will have to toil for 10 extra days to pay their tax this year, rages the Daily Express.

Quoting the calculations of the Adam Smith Institute the newspaper said that was the reality, despite the chancellor's positive spin.

But it praises much of the Budget and says Mr Brown has every reason to be upbeat about taking a gamble on borrowing.

"From Tax Man to Axe Man" approves the Daily Mail, referring to the chancellor's trumping of Tory promises to cut bureaucracy.

Its leader gushes over Brown's "towering presence" and glittering record as chancellor.

But while it welcomes the sidelining of the Euro debate, and money for the war on terror and defence, doubts are raised over rocketing borrowing levels.

And moves to cut civil service jobs and help pensioners with council tax are only being introduced to solve problems caused by Labour in the first place, it adds.

The Budget exploited the government's strengths while rocking as few boats as possible, in the name of winning the election, says the Independent.

The response to the housing crisis and needs of the elderly are listed among the "disappointments", as is the lack of new incentives for savers.

The newspaper regrets that the Britain's chance of joining the Euro before 2010 died with yesterday's Budget.

According to the Financial Times, the chancellor managed to confound his critics with a political Budget that set out plans for increases in public spending through a third term.




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