Well no-one can accuse Alistair Darling of being boring now! It was the most exciting budget in decades.
The reaction from the Tory Commentariat is interesting: Ian Dale in the Guardian declared he was "fizzing" with anger at the 50% tax rate for earnings over £150k, and Danny Finklestein wrote in the Times that "I think the tax rises will go down very badly with the bulk of voters". Both of course opposed the VAT cut because it benefitted rather more than the top 2% of the workforce.
Their knee-jerk response is very much the politics of the last 30 years. They assume that everyone identifies with the rich and that at least 40% of the population believe they will become part of the top 2% next year. While simultaneously believing that ordinary people are unhappy with the VAT refund on their sales slips.
I'm not sure if this thinking holds anymore. We shall find out if there has been a step-change in attitudes soon enough, at the next election...
Of course Tories will try to get around the "we are the party of the top two percent" by claiming that this hurts "entrepreneurs". But as most entrepreneurs will testify, they take their income in the form of dividends, are careful to retain as much in the company as possible (to fund future growth) and only set the dividend amount to be within the lowest tax rate bands. And when they make it and cash out (usually by allowing their small firm to get taken over by a bigger one for a tidy sum), they take their money in the form of capital gains which are taxed at just 18% (compared to 40% under the last Tory government). And why not if they've created a company and jobs out of nothing. So true entrepreneurs will not suffer at all.
However what could be termed the "officer" class, those who are high level management and directors, who pay themselves big amounts at the shareholders expense, bankers in the City who've done so much to ruin their industry, some extremely high paid staff in councils - these are the types of people who will be taxed at the new 50% rate. But they are not entrepreneurs. If they are encouraged to switch from being rentier types to becoming true entrepreneurs, then good. And if some of the bankers wish to bestow their talents for ruining businesses on the good people of Hong Kong or Dubai instead, I wish them bon voyage and cross my fingers that those countries will take them in.