It is a crucial day for Britain’s Labour government as it delivers the last budget ahead of the general election expected in May. The Finance Minister Alistair Darling, who will give the details in parliament, toured a construction site this morning with the prime minister Gordon Brown – a hint perhaps that measures to boost the housing market may feature prominently.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has repeatedly said there would be no big giveaways. But last night he did promise measures to boost growth. The country’s record budget deficit has been a thorn in the government’s side, but unemployment did not rise as much as expected during the recession.
That may allow some scope for concessions, putting more pressure on the opposition Conservatives before the election. They plan to hold their own emergency budget within fifty days of taking office, if they are elected.
The Tories remain ahead in the opinion polls, but their lead has shrunk in recent weeks.
Several surveys now point to a hung parliament at Westminster where no party has a majority, a scenario Britain has not seen for more than 35 years.