Budgets are always hugely political and never more so than in the run-up to a general election.

So it came as no surprise that Chancellor George Osborne delivered a deeply political package in what was his last meaningful budget before the 2015 poll.

But the details were a genuine surprise.

The chancellor had been under pressure from his own MPs to take more people out of the top rate 40% tax band rather than concentrating all his help on the lower paid.

In the end he ignored their calls fully aware that to do so would play into Labour's claim he was always helping his wealthy pals.

He did indeed raise the lower tax threshold to £10,500 - a policy pushed heavily by the Liberal Democrats but which he now calls his own.

And that allowed him to claim he was presenting a budget for - you guessed it – hard working families.

But that was not going to grab headlines because it had been heavily predicted beforehand.

So what everyone had been expecting was that Osborne would have a big, fat juicy rabbit to pull out of his hat to delight his own party and confound Labour.

And he did – and it was a fairly well-fed and decidedly grey-haired rabbit.

In a move that took everyone by surprise, Osborne focused significant help onto pensioners and savers.

These are two large groups of voters who have been feeling neglected and taken for granted. Low interest rates, in particular, have been hitting them hard.

But, perhaps more importantly, they are also traditionally seen as Tory voters. And the fear is they had started drifting away and looking for alternatives – notably in the shape of Nigel Farage and Ukip.

So Osborne's carefully targeted help was immediately seen as a way of wooing them back into the fold.

Ed Miliband didn't bother mentioning any of the specific budget measures when he responded to the chancellor but instead repeated what will be his election mantra: Do you feel better off now than you did five years ago?

It is probably a good plan not to get into the detail of a budget on the day because they seldom end up being as billed. The devil, as they say, is in the detail.

But Miliband took it to extremes by hardly mentioning any of the chancellor's measures , concentrating instead on his attack on the cost of living crisis.

It will be up to Ed Balls to take the package apart, line by line when he responds in the full debate later in the week.

But it is a pretty fair bet the cost of living will feature prominently.