Budget 2015 Divides Fleet Street As Think Tank Warns George's 'Epic Strut' Will Come With 'Deep Cuts'

George Osborne has called The Sun "geniuses" for their front page praising his budget, while an expert has warned will require "deep spending cuts" to work.

The paper's reaction prompted Osborne to "nearly spill" his coffee when he saw it, he said, calling the paper's staff "geniuses".

Above the headline "George's Epic Strut", the paper portrayed the Chancellor strutting like the "epic" character in the advert for Money Supermarket.

Today's Sun

Osborne told BBC Breakfast: "I almost spilt my coffee this morning when I read the front page of The Sun.

"What's great is that they have always got a way of bringing life to the Budget and it's the geniuses of The Sun who can come up with that front page."

But Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said Osborne's pledges would need "quite deep" spending cuts.

He said: "In order to meet the Chancellor's aims, you do need some significant and some really quite deep spending cuts in 2016/17 and 2017/18, and then he takes his foot right off the accelerator in 2019/20.

"So you get big spending cuts in the first couple of years and then spending increases right at the end."

Johnson acknowledged the Chancellor had said that some of the savings would be delivered by welfare cuts and a clampdown on tax avoidance.

He told the Today Programme: "He's been saying that for the last two years and has given us almost no details about what that actually looks like. I think it's rather disappointing that so far in, we still haven't heard any details about this."

He said Osborne's plans now envisage total public spending as a proportion of national income being returned to the levels of the early 2000s, while public service spending, excluding welfare, would be "a little bit lower than that".

But the actual amount of money being spent would "still be quite high by historical terms", he said.

Osborne didn't comment on the front page of The National, the new paper that supports Scottish independence, which drew a cartoon depicting just about everyone in Westminster as evil.

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He also may not have seen the Scottish edition of the Sun, which was less glowing and mocked him up as Kim Kardashian.

With the budget not producing a standout line or policy that they hadn't already covered or previewed, the papers were driven to create extravagant front pages to stand out among the pack.

But The Sun's and The National's pages had some people confused, particularly among those who had not seen the Money Supermarket advert and did not understand why Godzilla, Nick Clegg as a zombie and Harry Potter had been put together on the same page.

The rest of the press was largely divided along partisan lines - with papers like The Mirror attacking "hush money" - the cuts to spending that Osborne didn't mention.

...While The Daily Mail drew Osborne as the sun from "shining on savers".

The Times called him "The comeback king" while The Guardian said Osborne's claims of recovery was "what he wants you to think".

The Lib Dems are formulating their "alternative budget", which Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander said would eliminate the deficit "in a fairer way" by ensuring a "substantial proportion" of the burden of consolidation is borne by tax increases.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who hopes to be chancellor after the general election, told The Today Programme: "For all his boasts, people are worse-off than they were and the squeeze on living standards has been very severe.

"If you look at his plans for the next parliament, as the independent OBR say, the cuts in public spending under the Osborne plan are more severe in the next three years than in the last five.

"His desire to get to an overall surplus by 2019/20 means even bigger cuts in the next three years to our police, our defence forces than we've seen in the last few years.

"I don't think those cuts are going to be possible for George Osborne. He's going to end up either cutting our National Health Service or raising VAT."