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By Ray Fleming

WHY does the word “political” have such a bad reputation? The dictionary says it means “the activities associated with the governance of a country” so why was Alistair's Darling's budget criticised from right and centre for being “nakedly political”? Surely nakedness is the ultimate transparency in governance?

Generally, Mr Darling showed that he knew his Budget was little more than a holding exercise until the electorate has decided which party or parties it wants to guide Britain through the serious economic difficulties arising from the global upheavals of the past eighteen months. The Chancellor had relatively little to say about taxes or other measures that will affect voters' choices on the basis of personal gain or loss. There were no blatant “give-aways” designed to attract lots of votes. But on the more objective judgement required from voters on the broad national policies required to ensure Britain's recovery Mr Darling was more forthcoming.

He asserted again that the choice is between a party that believes severe cuts in public expenditure must wait until 2011 when growth in the economy will enable it to take the shock, and a party committed to immediate cuts to reduce the national deficit which could return the economy to recession by reducing demand too soon. The former is Labour's view and the latter the Conservative's. The difference is stark and has the advantage of being understandable by the economically illiterate as well as the experts.