Normally, a set of newspaper splashes featuring a Chancellor’s most controversial Budget policy would be judged a bad thing. But today’s newspaper front pages are, by and large, just what George Osborne wanted.
The sugar tax is just too irresistible to headline writers – and too controversial a policy not to grab attention and provoke endless debate. It is also much better a policy to grab attention and provoke endless debate than the awkward economic figures that the newspapers could have splashed on. Even front pages like the one published this morning by the Sun that criticise the sugar tax are better than ones criticising a £55bn black hole in the public finances. And the coverage of the measure also includes the quotes from Osborne about the importance of doing the right thing for the next generation.
The Mail is happy in a sceptical way, but does include the line ‘but admitted the UK’s finances had plunged deeper into the red’, while the Guardian focuses on the grim picture, rather than the sweet policy offer.
But on both the Express front page and lower down on the Telegraph is a story about the biggest risk that the Chancellor took, which was to play funny games with the OBR’s analysis of the risks of Brexit. Perhaps this row will be the one that rumbles on in the papers for a while longer.