So what will the Chancellor do next month? What follows is an attempt to draft two alternative texts. It will be amusing to see if either of them bears any resemblance to the eventual outcome.
" From the outset, it was clear that this Coalition government would be confronted by one of the gravest challenges in British peace-time history. Abroad, and in some of our most important markets, we were menaced by the crisis in the Eurozone. At home, growth was sharply falling while public spending was out of control. The national debt was already at dangerous levels and there would inevitably be further increases. Throughout their working lives, children yet unborn would face higher tax burdens in order to meet the interest payments. There was no alternative; taxes would have to rise while government spending was cut.
"That was our policy, and it is working. It has won the respect of the markets, which enables this country to enjoy very low interest rates. Most important of all, it has won the respect of the British people. No-one enjoys fiscal restraint. We British have never been a nation of masochists. But we have always been a nation of realists. The country knows what needs to be done, so the least the Government can do is live up to its responsibilities: take the hard decisions, make the tough choices and stay on course. There are, I believe, the first signs of recovery. But that is an argument for maintaining restraint, not abandoning it. Although I do intend to make a few marginal adjustments, my essential message today is; steady as she goes…"
"When this coalition took office, it was clear that we were in the midst of two crises: the Eurozone one, and the fiscal crisis at home. Government spending was at record levels; so was public dissatisfaction with the outcome. That could not continue. We had to bring public expenditure back under control. We had to prove that this was a nation which could manage its public finances.
"I believe that we have succeeded, and that it is now possible to adjust policy in order to water the green shoots of recovery. At the risk of alarming some of the stern and unbending members of my own party, I will frankly admit that this Budget has been framed on Liberal principles. It was Gladstone who proclaimed that money is best left to fructify in the pockets of the people.
Today, I will announce some fructifying measures. Our Liberal Democrat partners have been calling for the first £10,000 of earnings to be exempted from income tax, by the end of the Parliament. Today, I shall go further. It will be exempted from income tax, forthwith. The starting rate for the 40 percent rate will also be raised, from £43,000 to £50,000. The fifty percent rate is abolished. I also intend to harmonise capital gains tax with the standard rate of income tax, currently 20 percent. Corporation tax is also reduced to twenty percent.
"Naturally, I shall also implement revenue raising measures. I am no friend of graduated tax rates, In some future budget, I hope to be able to implement my enmity: not, alas, yet. But I will make a start by elimintaing graduated tax reliefs. In future, tax relief on pension contributions will be restricted to the standard rate.
"I shall also require a contributiuon from all overnment departments – health alone exempted. In every other ministry, spending will be cut by a further one percent. But money will be found to print a notice, to be affixed to a wall in every government office. It will bear a simple message: "Spending public money is a sacred trust". In future, at least once a year, I and all my Ministerial colleagues will be required to make a statement to Parliament. In it, we will explain what we have done to ensure that every pound of taxpayers' money which we have spent has obtained the same value for money as they would expect from their own expenditure.
"As befitted a classical scholar, Gladstone had an Olympian overview of the public finances.. He also used to keep oddments of string and candle-ends in his desk drawers, in the hope that they could eventually be used. I commend his Liberal example: intellectual rigour and a relentless drive for economies.
"I will also implement radical reforms on the supply side. There will be a bonfire of the regulations which currently discourage employers from taking on workers. As a result, those entering and re-entering the labour market will have very few rights. But what is the point of rights without jobs? That is not kindness: it is cruelty. There is another form of subtle cruely which must also be eliminated: the use of welfare payments to subsidise idleness. Where there is work available, those who refuse to take it must not expect the social security system to reward them. For one thing, that is not in their interests. It has been proposed to cap welfare payments at £26,000. That is too high, at least outside London. The limit will now be fixed at £22,000.
"The net cost of all these measures is hard to compute, because the outcome is subject to the vagaries of human behaviour. But I believe that today's stimulus will influence those vagaries in a helpful direction, leading to higher growth and lower unemployment: higher government revenues and reduced expenditure. On a statc model, the cost of today's changes would be around five or six billion pounds. An additional one percent of growth would pay for that. Equally, the government was on course to meet and indeed surpass its borrowing reduction targets. That vital success will not be impaired by this budget: rather, I hope, the reverse.
"In difficult circumstances, I have framed a Liberal, indeed radical, budget. It is a budget for jobs and enterprise. It will bring relief to every taxpayer. it will help those who are not in work to find a job, while alleviating some of the damaging effects of our welfare system. It is a budget for revival and recovery. I commend it to the House".
We shall see.