The lines have been drawn, the election is in full swing and Labour is coming out all guns blazing - if we're gonna lose, it's gonna be a glorious last stand.
OK, that's a bit of an overstatement of the Budget I admit, but the raising of the top rate of tax, whilst its economic impact may or may not be negligible, is a clear fire fight with the Tories. The next election will be between the Labour Party, looking to claw back some of the money that the rich have accrued during the times of plenty; and a Tory Party reverting to their traditional stance of protecting the interests of the rich above the rest of society.
It won't get to this level of clear distinction, however, for several reasons. Firstly, the public blame the Government of the day for economic travails which the country suffers, and that Government is a Labour one - therefore there is a desire to punish the administration. Secondly, the public perception of the Tories which was rooted in the right wing excesses of the Thatcher years is not as prominent as it once was meaning the public do not necessarily associate them with the rich to a greater degree than they do the Labour Party (plus, of course, it has to be remembered that many people in England were very pleased with Thatcher's approach to government). Finally, Cameron is too shrewd an operator to slip into the trap of expressly defending the interests of the rich above all others, regardless of what his real intentions may be. The move does present an interesting conundrum for him though - does he support it, potentially picking up public support but possibly alienating the City and other core Tory support? Or does he oppose it and run the risk of appearing elitist and out of touch? I think it'll be the latter, but he'll base his opposition on the belief that the move won't be effective rather than outright support for entrepreneurialism/defending the wealthy.
Overall there are some interesting aspects to the Budget, with the rise in child tax credits and the provision of work or training for under-25s beneficial moves. However they may be lost amidst the levels of public borrowing and the optimistic forecast which the Chancellor has based his figures on.
If his forecast turns out to be right, or at least closer to the mark, then this Budget may turn out to be a very successful one, however, if the consensus is closer to the mark then we could have a very difficult period ahead of us. What is needed is a fundamental review of how we approach government and what we want for the country - a greater focus on social housing, support for the unemployed, job creation and fairness in taxation and wealth distribution rather than fire fighting is needed if a fourth term is to be even remotely possible.
The tax rise may succeed in grabbing the headlines and may even revitalise some Labour activists, but the Budget must only be the start. It now requires a period of bold and innovative government to demonstrate that Labour can continue to be in power and to focus the minds of the electorate on the possibilities of the future rather than the challenges of the present and past. This is an uphill task for any administration - it is up the Prime Minister and his team to prove that they can do it.