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Ian Hernon's view.

A STORM was blowing yesterday at Westminster as Alistair Darling delivered his debut Budget.

The window panes rattled, the wind howled...and still he managed to put some MPs to sleep.

If you thought Gordon Brown was dour, his Treasury bag man was worse.

Mr Darling sped through his speech, re-announcing old statements and adding a penny here, pounds 1 there to tax and duties.

There was much to be welcomed such as his boost for shivering pensioners and his crackdown on child poverty. But never has 51 minutes seemed so long.

A Scots Labour colleague summed up his demeanour having known Mr Darling since his youth as a student Trotsykist far to the Left of Liverpool Militants.

"He was relaxed but he will never set the heather ablaze," the MP said.

Mr Darling will never be a Commons performer and grandstander because, despite over 20 years as an MP and a decade as a Cabinet minister, he hasn't got the knack.

Where were the surprises?

Booze and cigarette duty up ...as expected. Fuel duty rises deferred ...as expected.

Green incentives for business ...as previously announced.

His one unforeseen announcement was penalties for shops who fail to curb the use of plastic bags.

But there were no details of when, where and how much. It was a simple knee-jerk reaction to recent tabloid headlines.

Mr Darling now has his dream job at a time of banking crisis, falling house prices, job losses and the prospect of a recession.

He has not made much of a mark. But then his real job is to defer the flak from his neighbour in Downing Street.
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 13, 2008
Words:272
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