Column inches: The last budget of the millennium was presented last week. Here is how some press commentators responded.

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The Independent Online
THE CHANCELLOR could not have been more matter-of-fact in pronouncing the Government's death sentence on the traditional family, and on a vital part of the bedrock of our society. Yet in replacing the present married couple's allowance, that was exactly what he was doing... The perverse ideology of New Labour is now going to predominate. An unmarried family will be as good as a married one; families with no fathers will be just as viable as those with them; and the tax payer will foot the bill, and damn the consequences... If the Government wishes to destroy the traditional family it should at least be honest about it and initiate a debate on the consequences. For the moment, the middle classes have every reason to feel they did quite well out of what Mr Brown announced yesterday - until, that is, they consider the potentially catastrophic results of the Chancellor's encouragement of the unmarried family.

Simon Heffer, Daily Mail

GORDON BROWN will hate me for saying this but he is the best Prime Minister we haven't got. His Budget managed to achieve what we all thought was impossible: lower taxes coupled with better benefits for old people and others in need, and improved public services. As I watched the Chancellor present his Budget to a crowded House of Commons, the body language told me everything. Labour's ranks were cheering wildly. The Tories sat with faces as long as a fortnight. Because this is truly a watershed for New Labour. It demonstrates that the party still has a heart, and it beats for the family, children and old folk... This is the last Budget of the 20th century. With a give-away of pounds 6bn a year, it has established the Chancellor as Splash Gordon.

Paul Routledge, Mirror

BY PRETENDING to be a tax-cutting Chancellor instead of having the courage to explain why modestly higher taxes are needed to fulfil the Government's promises, Mr Brown will be caught in a pincer movement between disillusioned voters and a disappointed public sector. On one side, the Sun's readers will demand genuine tax cuts once they realise that the "guaranteed prizes for every reader" announced on their newspaper's front page were little more than a conjuring trick financed by their own spending on petrol, tobacco and insurance... Mr Brown should enjoy his popularity while it lasts.

Anatole Kaletsky, Times

FOR ONE brief shining moment, we were tempted to burst into a chorus of "Gordon is a Tory", to the tune by Jilted John, and toast him in a selection of the beers, wines and spirits whose excise duties he so generously failed to raise. It was only later, as we idly scanned our notebooks, that the prickling uncertainty started... Married couples used to get a little pat on the back from the state called the "married couple's allowance"; and Gordon the bachelor has snatched it away. In fact, he is mustard-keen on the family, provided this family does not have a family car, or a conventional family life, or a family house, come to that... He is a master of illusion, ingeniously redistributing money across society, in accordance with his prejudices, and somehow concealing the transaction from the victims. In the end, this larceny may catch up with him.

Boris Johnson, Telegraph

OLD LABOUR thinks it's not working if it's not hurting, but when Brown squeezes the rich, he does it so stealthily the pips don't squeak. None the less, little by little he is chipping away at the perks of the better off... the Chancellor is the master of the art of the politically possible. Ideological confrontation may be fun but it butters few ballot papers. This was a good budget from a government growing in stature all the time.

Polly Toynbee, Guardian

BUSINESS WAS no doubt pleased, and the Tories discomfited, to hear a Labour chancellor declare yesterday that the tax system had undervalued entrepreneurship and investment for too long. But rhetoric on this score comes cheaper than the bill of future corporation tax... Companies will be paying some pounds 4bn more in each of the next four financial years... Nothing in this budget will compensate business for that earlier damage.

John Plender, Financial Times

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