LABOUR foxes, Government sources claimed, were being shot one after the other as George Osborne set about trying to kill off the two Eds' options for attack in the election campaign.

Firstly, the Treasury boasted how people were now £900 better off than in 2010 and that, it was official, living standards would be higher this year than when the Coalition was born. Thus, the argument went, Ed Miliband's claims about the cost of living crisis were dead and buried.

Secondly, the lower inflation and extra growth meant that the resultant multi-billion pound windfall would be used to ease austerity and help boost public spending at the end of the parliament; pointing to a pre-election splurge in 2019/20.

So the claim of going back to the 1930s was picked off as the level of spending would not, it was suggested, fall below 36 per cent but be kept at the level it was in 2000 when one Gordon Brown was in charge at the Treasury

Thirdly, the Chancellor inconveniently closed off the tax-grab Labour wanted to use to raise money for its manifesto proposals. How, asked a senior Government source with a smile on his face, would the Labour chief fund his planned cut in tuition fees now?

Labour hit back by pointing out how official figures showed the 36 per cent level was only slightly above the previous post-war low of the grim days of 1958, that claims of living standards being higher were bogus as tax and benefit changes meant people were in fact £1600 worse off since 2010 and that the plan to cut tuition fees was "alive and well and running".

While, of course, all Budgets are political, one just weeks from a general election is wrapped up in election messages.

So the Chancellor could not resist rhetorical flourishes to instil a feelgood factor in voters from "the sun is starting to shine and we are fixing the roof" to "Britain is walking tall again" to "Britain; the come-back country".

Mr Osborne's sixth set-piece statement seemed to be a classic example of tick-box politics.

There was something for the young in the form of help for first-time buyers, something for the workers in the form of another rise in the tax-free allowance, something for savers in a tax cut on their nest-eggs and something for the old in more pension reforms.

There were cuts in booze and a freeze on petrol. There was help for churches, air ambulances, farmers, scientists, and even orchestras.

There was help for different parts of the UK as we were told we were enjoying a "truly national recovery". So while there was £1.3bn of help for the North Sea oil industry and progress on City Deals for Aberdeen and Inverness, there were more measures to invest in transport links to boost the northern powerhouse in England and a £1bn tidal lagoon plan to harness the power of the sea off south Wales.

Overall, the Chancellor's promises cost around £3bn but the money is to come from, among other things, new tax raids on banks and a crackdown on large firms avoiding tax.

As we have moved closer towards May 7, the changing numbers appear to have all been falling in David Cameron's favour from growth to inflation, wages to employment.

The deficit is still high and the cuts to come in the first half of the next parliament remain eye-watering. Some £20bn has to be found in the next two years, which will mean hefty cuts in non-protected departments.

But when wages are rising and mortgage rates remain low, the Labour argument, particularly in Middle Britain where the election will be won and lost, that it has all been pain and no gain begins to ring increasingly hollow.

The political nub of the Budget came down to one sentence in the end when Mr Osborne said: "The critical choice facing the country now is this: do we return to the chaos of the past or do we say to the British people: let's go on working through the plan that is delivering for you?"

And yet for all the positive numbers and the encouragement for people to feel good about the economy, the polls are proving annoyingly immobile for the Tories. They have for weeks now been neck and neck with Labour and another hung parliament looks an odds-on certainty.

One Tory Cabinet Minister bemoaned how by the now the Conservatives should be pulling well clear of Labour on back of all the sunny statistics and that colleagues were beginning to look nervously over their shoulder at the Labour challenger huffing and puffing on the rails.

Unless in the next 48 days or so, Messrs Cameron and Osborne can convince the public of the feelgood factor and that it is down to them, turning recovery into votes, then they may find that despite all their attempts to shoot Labour foxes, their painful choices in government have simply paved the way to power for the two Eds.