SOMETIME soon the government of the day in Britain will have to consider whether to abandon Budget Day in its present form. The Chancellor may still pose for the photographers with his battered dispatch box but that is just about all that is left of the drama that once made his annual statement on the nation's economy one of the great parliamentary occasions. The media's predictions of what would be in Mr Darling's speech on Wednesday were so accurate that it was almost unnecessary for him to deliver it. Such predictions are not the result of a new model of crystal ball in newspaper offices but the result of deliberate leaks by the Treasury in order to generate apathy towards what it knew could be no more than a “stability” statement. The most important speech concerning Britain's economic prospects this week was not Alistair Darling's but that of Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board, a day earlier when he announced another attempt, in association with central banks in Britain, Canada and Switzerland, to ease the global credit squeeze by providing more than 200 billion dollars in the world bond and currency markets.

Pensioners on Majorca, basking in near-summer temperatures on Wednesday, may not have noticed the Budget increases in the winter fuel allowance for their counterparts in Britain which, in most cases, remains beyond their reach here. It's not fair, but no Chancellor is going to risk the ridicule of “winter warmth for sunny Majorca”.