Osborne's Budget: rhetoric versus reality

The Chancellor delivering the budget. Credit: PA

It's all over - bar the spinning and the number crunching.

And both the spinning and the number crunching of George Osborne's Budget are well under way.

At Westminster where I am, there's a sense of liberation among Tories.

Finally free of those wretched (their words not mine) Liberal Democrats, this was a proper Tory Budget.

A Conservative Chancellor doing what no Conservative Chancellor has done for the best part of two decades.

Cutting welfare. Cutting business taxes. Giving middle-Britain a boost by raising tax allowances. Increasing the pre-tax inheritance allowance.

And the 'big announcement' that there would be a compulsory living wage, rising to £9 an hour by 2020.

And so to the spinning.

The Tories say that this is a Budget for 'One Nation', that it helps the poor as well as the better off.

More than once in his speech, Mr Osborne said he was introducing a 'progressive' measure - and looked directly at Labour as if to say "I'm more Left-wing than you lot'.

Acting Labour party leader Harriet Harman responds. Credit: PA

Labour of course challenge this and have focused on the welfare cuts in particular.

These, they claim, will hit the poorest in society hardest.

Mr Osborne may have presented himself as a One Nation reforming radical but it's the same old Tories, say Labour.

Stewart Hosie. Credit: PA

The SNP are not impressed either.

The party's finance spokesperson Stewart Hosie called Mr Osborne "the high priest of an austerity cult".

It should, in fairness, be said that as some of the numbers are crunched, Mr Osborne seems to have eased back a bit on austerity.

There will now be no surplus until 2019/20.

Tim Farron Credit: PA

And the Lib Dems, well they are effectively saying 'look what happens when we're not there to curb the true blue Tory instincts'.

So the battle continues to get over what politicians call 'the narrative' of the Budget. He, or she, who controls the narrative wins the political battle, they believe.

But what of the effect of this Budget on real people?

If you are on certain benefits, particularly tax credits, it's obviously going to have a big impact.

The test will be whether the living wage plan plus the welfare reforms eventually achieve that the Tories hope - giving people in incentive to work rather than claim from the state.

And that is the fundamental issue out of this Budget.

Will this, as the Tories believe, liberate people and give them more dignity by standing on their own two feet?

Or will it, as all the opposition parties claim, lead to greater impoverishment and a more divided country?

With a relatively safe majority, the Conservatives at least have time to persevere with the policies.

We'll have plenty of evidence at the end their five year term of office whether the rhetoric matches reality.

Meanwhile, the spinning and the number crunching continues apace.