6.45pm WATCH: Clegg overheard to Cameron: "If we keep doing this we won't find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debate"

6pm Parliament: Five ways of supporting the Government during a budget debate

3.15pm WATCH: Extraordinary confrontation on Pakistani TV channel as actress defies cleric

1.30pm Bill Cash MP on Comment: Throwing down the gauntlet to the Prime Minister on the Portugese bailout

12pm WATCH George Osborne: WPP's post-budget announcement is a great sign

11pm ThinkTankCentral: Open Europe says that Britain could pay over four billion Euros to help bail out Portugal

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ToryDiary: Rating the Budget by the Thatcher, Tebbit, Lawson, Merkel and Reagan standards

Also on ToryDiary: A budget reason to thank the Chancellor on the 50p rate

In Comment:

Local Government:

Parliament: Backbench Conservative heavyweights line up to back the budget

Seats and Candidates: By-election candidate shortlist announced for Leicester South, where voters will have four votes on May 5th

WATCH: Boris Johnson: The budget has gone for growth

Budget proves that Osborne's not for turning and has no reverse gear

Screen shot 2011-03-24 at 09.16.26
"George Osborne put himself on the side of struggling middle earners yesterday as he unveiled petrol and income tax cuts.  The Chancellor said his second Budget was designed to ‘put fuel in the tank’ of the backfiring British economy.  But with weaker than expected economic growth, it was becoming clear last night that there were some nasty surprises lurking under the bonnet." – Daily Mail

"George Osborne has ignored the warning lights flashing in the British economy delivering a Budget that stuck defiantly to his plan to cut public sector borrowing and fuel private sector growth. “Britain has a plan and we are sticking to it,” he said. In spite of rising inflation, lower short-term growth and higher medium-term borrowing, Mr Osborne said his plan to cut the deficit was on track and was essential for realising his ambition of turning Britain into Europe’s top business location." – Financial Times (£)

George Osborne's Budget answered The Sun's demand to give motorists a break – with bold moves to bring tax relief at the pumps.  He said last night: "I couldn't let Sun readers down – I hope it helps."  The Chancellor chopped an immediate penny off fuel duty from 6pm last night. He scrapped an inflation-linked 5p price hike due on April 1.  He tore up Labour's hated fuel tax escalator – which would have led to annual rises at the rate of inflation plus 1p." – The Sun

"George Osborne has bowed to growing concern over the biggest squeeze in living standards since the second world war with an instant cut in fuel duty, but had his claim to be delivering a budget for growth undermined by the ominous prospect of lower growth, rising unemployment and higher borrowing…he was forced to admit that growth this year would be just 1.7% – lower than the 2.1% expected – while 200,000 fewer jobs would be created during this parliament." – The Guardian

What the budget means for you – Financial Times (£) 

Osborne gets the backing he wanted as The Mail and Telegraph join the Murdoch papers in supporting the budget

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"This Budget was anyway intended to serve a political purpose; to shift the focus away from current austerity to future prosperity…This newspaper has criticised Mr Osborne for not coming forward with a contingency plan were growth to slide further. While he did not do so in his speech, he did show a degree of flexibility. The path of deficit reduction will be slightly less steep, partly because of higher inflation and partly because of the dismal winter, that has left the economy at a lower level than anticipated last summer." – Financial Times (£)

"It left him with a more limited canvas on which to work, yet he used it well. His assessment of the state of the economy was both lucid and frank – a refreshing change from the smoke-and-mirrors approach of the last regime. And crucially, Mr Osborne succeeded in shifting the economic debate away from the talk of austerity and cuts that have dominated for the past three years and focused it instead on how best to secure our future prosperity." – Daily Telegraph Editorial

"There will be no dancing in the streets to celebrate this Budget. It won’t deliver an instant upswing or banish families’ worries about ever-growing bills. Indeed, its most worrying aspect is that growth forecasts have had to be downgraded.  Nevertheless, it contains much that is welcome, while almost every measure points in the right direction. To be fair to George Osborne, isn’t that as much as we could expect in these terrible times?" – Daily Mail

"For a Budget that threatened to deliver little, it delivered a lot…A welcome victory for The Sun's campaign to tackle fuel prices.  And another victory for our crusade to put jobs and growth at the heart of economic policy.  Chancellor George Osborne showed boldness and imagination in playing a poor hand very skilfully.  Crucially, he has thrown open Britain's door to the world as a competitive place to do business." – The Sun

"In all, from the higher reaches of its tone to the small print of its content, this was a Budget that seemed expressly designed not to rock any more boats or frighten any more horses, but to foster an air of stability – in sharp contrast to the rough austerity message that permeated last summer's emergency Budget. It was, Mr Osborne said, fiscally neutral, and from the outset he was careful to make clear that he understood, even if he could not personally feel, ordinary households' pain." – The Independent

"Given the parlous state of the national finances bequeathed to him by his Labour predecessors he did all that could reasonably be expected to protect the living standards of hardworking families. Many voters may have hoped for more dramatic tax cuts but the fairminded among them will have noted that the Chancellor’s heart is in the right place on this vital issue and have resolved to give him another year or two to come up with further instalments." – Daily Express

"Overall, the Chancellor did well yesterday. It was a considerable achievement to be able to advance a proper, serious growth policy, to reform pensions, to tackle burdensome regulations, yet still find money to address the rising cost of living. Mr Osborne has emerged, in office, as one of the big beasts in the Government. But he will need all his strength in the years to come." – The Times (£)  

…As the sun as well as the Sun shines for the Chancellor

"Sunny smiles spread across the country yesterday as spring finally sprang into action.  Temperatures of more than 64f (17.8c) left Greece and Malaga in the shade with Britain’s hottest day of the year so far.  And the warm welcome is expected to continue until the weekend.  Today we are in for another warm day with a high of 62.6f (17c), with the same predicted for tomorrow." – Daily Mail 

The Commentators' view

Screen shot 2011-03-24 at 08.24.53 "What on earth did you expect?  I don’t want to be a bore about this, but there is no money. Most voters — fairly resigned and pessimistic about politics and government anyway — understand this. But the extent to which the political world breathlessly awaits the Budget, as if it might tell us something different, is a constant surprise to me…A fiscally neutral Budget can’t really do much to help living standards." – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times (£)

"He has been likened to a submarine. Occasionally we see him in public for an important set-piece event but his most important work is beneath the surface. In economic strategy his inspiration is the German leader, Angela Merkel. If Labour built the economy on a bubble of debt, Osborne wants to rebuild Britain on German rock.  He’s a tax cutter but he’s more interested, like Frau Merkel, in paying national debts." – Tim Montgomerie, Daily Mail

"Yet the growth forecasts look too optimistic for such an uncertain world, and on Saturday London will be packed with public sector workers who think the Government is wavering in the face of political pressure at home and crisis abroad. He must prove them wrong.  Yesterday he produced his best shot, an all-or-nothing attempt to get Britain going again that would in turn justify asking for a proper mandate at the next election. But Mr Osborne is no nearer to producing the Tory majority in 2015 that he dreams of." – Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph

"The chancellor had not a lot to say and an hour to fill in saying it.Mr Osborne, a smart politician, knows that it is too early to tell whether history will judge last year’s spending and borrowing cuts as courageous or reckless. Either way, he is not about to change course. This government has an economic plan, he declared at the very outset of his speech, and “we are sticking to it”. There really isn’t a Plan B." – Philip Stephens, Financial Times (£)

"In urgent practical and political need for a narrative that goes beyond the looming cuts, the Budget was presented as one for growth. In case there was any doubt, a dense and worthy document was produced in addition to the normal Budget papers that focused solely on this more uplifting theme.  Indeed, with premature chutzpah, Osborne claimed that he had already rescued Britain's economy, and now it was time to move on to recovery." – Steve Richards, The Independent

Screen shot 2011-03-24 at 10.12.26 "The chancellor has adhered to one budget maxim: giving the arts what they want yields the biggest political bang for the smallest buck. He had been lobbied intensely to make some amends for cuts in the direct arts budget. The cry was to get the rich to replace what the taxpayer had withdrawn. George Osborne has clearly listened…Freeing smaller charities of the absurd red tape surrounding "gift aid" is long overdue and one wonders why Labour never thought of such simple aids." – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

"But there are also a few bits of rather unseemly pork barrel politics. Nick Clegg’s Sheffield gets an enterprise zone, which is probably fair enough. But we are also told that ‘following a thorough review, the government is approving the revised Sheffield retail quarter regeneration scheme.’  The south west, which has a disproportionately large number of Lib Dem seats, gets help to keep water bills down." – James Forsyth, The Spectator

  • Osborne makes the best of a bad hand – Martin Wolf, Financial Times (£)
  • The speech Mr Osborne should have made – Iain Martin, Daily Mail
  • Osborne impresses with his vision thing – Richard Lambert, The Times (£)
  • George Osborne wasn't allowed to give us the Budget we really needed – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph
  • A family-friendly budget? – Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian
  • Debt will still rise but this modest and steady Budget rightly stuck to the plan – Harry Phibbs, Daily Mail
  • As the Irish say, George, don't start from here – Johann Hari, The Independent

Osborne moves early to show that richer people are shouldering their share of the burden…

"Taking into account all the tax and benefit changes that the coalition government inherited from the previous Labour government and the new ones that it announced before the budget, the overall package looked broadly regressive. The new tax measures announced on Wednesday will have changed this picture somewhat. Particular winners were motorists and most income tax payers." – Gemma Tetlow of the Institute for Fiscal Studies in the Guardian

"On the Treasury's calculations, the poorest fifth of households will find themselves 4% worse off by 2014-15, while the richest fifth will lose just over 5% of their disposable income. In other words, despite yesterday's efforts to sweeten the pill, everyone's a loser." – The Guardian 

…As Pickles prepares to announce council tax cuts

Eric Pickles cheerful "Council tax is to be frozen or reduced in every local authority area in England this year, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced today.  That will make it the first year since the tax was introduced in 1993 that it has not risen.  The freeze was funded by £650million provided by Mr Pickles' Department for Communities and Local Government to support councils which opted not to increase their bills." – Daily Mail

Miliband says Osborne must change course

"Dismissing Mr Osborne's economic plans, he said growth figures showed the Chancellor's strategy was failing and called on him to change course.  Drawing on the Chancellor's stated aspiration of wanting to be a blend of 1980s Conservative heavyweights Nigel Lawson and Michael Heseltine, Mr Miliband instead compared Mr Osborne to a predecessor from the Tory government of the early Nineties." – Daily Telegraph

…And finally (on the budget): Yes, Clarke was asleep, says Ladbrokes – and pays out

"The government has denied a Labour accusation that Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke "fell asleep" while George Osborne delivered his Budget.  Party leader Ed Miliband made the claim during exchanges in the House of Commons, joking that Mr Osborne's statement must have been "compelling".  But Mr Clarke's spokesman later said: "Of course he didn't fall asleep".  However, bookmaker Ladbrokes said it had paid a "four-figure sum" to a punter who bet on such an eventuality." – BBC

"Mr Clarke was bookended between colleagues, so there was no danger of him toppling to the floor. Away he floated like a customer at Dignitas." – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

6.30pm WATCH: Did Ken Clarke have a nap during the Budget?

Yesterday's ConservativeHome budget coverage –



Comment preview:

LISTEN: The BBC's Stephanie Flanders, Robert Peston and Nick Robinson preview the Budget





Other Political News

Nick Clegg set to rein in NHS reforms…

"Nick Clegg told a meeting of his MPs in Westminster on Tuesday that he would now be "taking the lead" within government to rein in its programme of reform for the NHS.  The Liberal Democrat leader said he was determined to ensure changes were made to the health and social care bill, the clearest sign that he will personally negotiate with the health secretary, Andrew Lansley. A senior party source said that the Lib Dem leader had decided to "front up" the issue with the Conservatives." – The Guardian

…As he claims win over May on immigration

"Nick Clegg and Theresa May were embroiled in an astonishing war of words last night over visas for foreign students.  The Deputy PM and the Home Secretary BOTH claimed victory as she unveiled the clampdown.  Mrs May said she would cut the number of visas available to non-EU students by 100,000. Mr Clegg had argued against the move.  But plans to stop foreign graduates staying on to work were dumped – in what the Deputy PM said was a win for him and Business Secretary Vince Cable." – The Sun

Lord Palmerston proves an inspiration for David Cameron

Screen shot 2011-03-24 at 09.30.47 "Of course, he was moved by the television footage of Libyan irregulars ready to take on tanks: ready indeed to die, if that would help their children to lead decent lives. But he acted in the national interest. If Gaddafi prevailed, instability would spread throughout the region. The Arab spring could quickly turn into bleak midwinter. If hope died, terrorists would flourish. A mad dog state on the Mediterranean littoral would be a threat to the West’s security." – Bruce Anderson, Daily Telegraph

Other Comment

  • A family slaughtered in Israel – doesn't the BBC care? – Louise Bagshawe MP, Daily Telegraph
  • The Tories are squandering our billions on foreign aid that in reality betrays the countries it's meant to help – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Not even the humanitarian urge can be a basis for war – Andreas Whittam Smith, The Independent