Praise for Budget 'masterstroke'

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The Independent Online
HERR BLAIR mania has hit Germany, according to the Whitehall machine, which yesterday issued a Foreign Office telegram showing enthusiastic German press reaction to the Budget.

But one of the Prime Minister's spokesmen then capped the diplomatic cable with news of the political programme to be put to the German SPD's party conference, next month.

According to Blair's man in London, the programme includes such plagiarist political gems as: "Our goal is a stakeholder society; calls for cuts in corporation tax, and increases in child benefit; welfare to work, with carrot-and-stick inducements to get people into jobs or training; and on law and order, the German equivalent of, 'Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'."

The "unclassified" FCO telegram on German press reactions to the Budget could not have been more supportive, citing strong praise in both the heavyweight and popular press.

It said that the popular Bild Zeitung had given the Budget a prominent factual article and the paper's main editorial, headlined "Great!", said: "Britain was in the lead when industrialisation began. Germany took a hundred years to catch up. Now the British are dashing away again. Let's hope we will not be left far behind."

The cable says: "Neue Zuricher Zeitung [widely read in Germany] describes the Budget as a 'British masterstroke - which leaves little ground for opposition attacks'." Frankfurter Rundschau and the Suddeutche Zeitung [both leading liberal dailies] praise in particular the measures which the Chancellor has taken to reform the social welfare state and encourage people to take low-paid jobs.

The Bonn embassy also reports that Handelsblatt - the "FT equivalent" - described the Budget as a complete success, saying, in essence, "The reforms to the welfare state mark a clear break with Thatcherism, but the Budget is also enterprise-friendly".