Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak's give and take as pandemic costs bite

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

image copyrightUK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

There has been a lot of give, and there will be a lot of take.

Business will, in time, pay billions more. More than a million people will have to start paying income tax, and a million extra will pay at a higher level.

The deeply strange circumstances of the pandemic have turned the party with a theoretical love of low taxes into a government that will crank them up significantly in practice.

"Honest Rishi Sunak", as he hopes to be represented, has chosen his determination to start dealing with the cost of Covid over the Tories' traditional backing for low taxes.

Boxed in by election promises, he has chosen two huge future money raisers.

Despite those hikes, and the hundreds of billions spent on Covid, public spending overall is still set to contract.

Rishi Sunak has done much more than extend the emergency lifelines - the modern-day Conservatives will raise taxes to a proportion of national income not seen since the 1960s.

Even before the pandemic, the prime minister had little appetite to pare back public spending.

But the past year has ended any Tory dreams of a lean and low tax economy.

And with any flicker to the cost of borrowing, or an even more prolonged pandemic, what is already a grim picture for the country's books may become tougher still.

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