JEREMY Hunt opened his first Budget with a hat-tip to millions of Sun readers as he froze pump prices for the 13th year in a row.
The chirpy Chancellor praised “The Sun newspaper” for persuading him to axe his 11p-a-litre tax increase, saving typical drivers £100 a year.
Duty on draught beer is also frozen, a lifeline to thousands of hard-pressed pubs struggling to stay in business.
Millions of working mums will win 30 hours of free child care for every infant who is over nine months old.
There will be a costly boost for pension savers and training and jobs for the army of hard-up over-50s who have “retired” since Covid.
These were the bright spots in an otherwise cautious budget which promised to cut inflation and avoid recession but picked the pockets of hardworking taxpayers.
Predictably, Mr Hunt blamed Covid and the war in Ukraine for rocketing inflation and the highest taxes seen in this country since the second World War.
However he did not mention the £400billion splurged during lockdown, leaving UKplc with record debts.
Yes, inflation will plunge from 10.7 to 2.9 per cent by December — cutting pressure on pay and mortgages.
But the Treasury’s never-ending freeze on tax thresholds — the points at which tax rises kick in — will cream £6 more off every £100 we earn.
The hated 32 per cent rise in company tax will go ahead — despite protests in this newspaper by billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson — but bosses can claim the money back if they invest in new plant.
This was blatantly a ballot box budget, piling up tax revenues for an estimated £100billion pre-election splurge next year.
The question is will a rebounding economy be enough to give Rishi Sunak a stunning who’d-have-thought-it election triumph.
Or will voters only remember 13 patchy years of Conservative rule and a summer fiasco of three Tory PMs, four Chancellors and Liz Truss’s budget disaster?