The chancellor said Britain stood at a “crossroads”, and much of his hour-long statement was devoted to trying to persuade voters to take the Labour route of continued spending to support the economy and not the Tory path of immediate cuts to bring down borrowing.
Mr Darling repeatedly contrasted the recent recession with downturns under Conservative administrations in the 1980s and 1990s, in which unemployment, business failures, interest rates and home repossessions were higher.
With promises of support for small businesses and new funds for universities, green enterprises and the hi-tech industries of the new economy, he sought to position Labour as the forward-looking, optimistic party with “confidence” in the future, in contrast with Tory warnings of austerity to come.
Budgets always allow governments the opportunity to highlight their differences with opposition.
Today’s statement was virtually a rehearsal of the election slogans which will be heard again and again on the campaign trail.