Give Brown the credit, then, for grasping the historical significance of this moment. His was not a pre-election Budget, but for him it was as important: it was a pre-succession Budget. He had to redefine himself before the personal Tory attacks did it for him. And so here he is: a reforming, pro-business, moderately green social democrat.
It is not enough to turn round a bad run of opinion polls, but it lays the foundations. Who knows what the effect of Blair's departure will be on public opinion? Not the opinion polls: people are notoriously bad at predicting to pollsters how their attitudes will change. The importance of the Budget is that it shows that Brown learns from history, and escapes George Santayana's warning: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
No, John. The importance of this budget is that the country has seen through it. They have seen through the con, the manipulation, the fact that poor people will now be paying more tax. Time after the time over the last few days I have have overheard people (real people, outside the Westminster bubble) talking about the budget in less than complimentary terms. Last night when I was out to dinner with my parents in a small village pub I heard someone say...
"But why has he taken money off poor people?"
Why indeed. John Rentoul might be New Labour's foremost cheerleader in the national newspapers, but if he believes the country likes this budget he needs to get out more.