Three months after everyone thought a recession was inevitable, all the indicators point to a resurgence of growth. Something to do with the Budget perhaps?
This year's Budget was Gordon Brown's 10th - the longest uninterrupted run of Budgets by one person since Nicholas Vansittart in 1822. Early on in the life of the government, Gordon used to joke that there were only two types of finance minister - those who fail and those who get out just in time. After nine years, that joke has passed its sell-by-date!
The ritual of Budget day must be getting familiar for the chancellor, but for me this was a first. After years of sitting in the civil servants' cramped box by the Speaker's chair, and then watching from the public gallery, this was my first chance to sit on the green benches for a Budget speech.
The House of Commons feels quite different from the inside to how it appears on television. For a start, the government and opposition benches are much closer than the cameras suggest. And, without the TV mikes, it is sometimes hard to hear what is being said. But the biggest difference, which you can only sense in the chamber itself, is the volatility of mood and atmosphere. And it was striking to me how different the Commons' mood was compared with the chancellor's pre-Budget report last December.
Back then, high oil prices and a housing slowdown were depressing economic growth below the Treasury's forecast and many commentators had become pretty pessimistic about the British economy. Some feared it was slipping into recession; others that the housing market would go into freefall.
Many said tax revenues would fail to materialise, putting the public finances under pressure.
These concerns were reflected in the fevered mood of the Commons on pre-Budget report day. Despite the chancellor's focus on long-term challenges, the chamber and the press gallery were only interested in the short-term issues of growth and borrowing.
You can understand why the opposition was inclined to take a pessimistic view. The Conservatives have been predicting a recession for years. Undermining Labour's record for economic competence is necessary if their fortunes are to turn around. Surely, they hope, their predictions of doom must be right someday. I have some sympathy for the pessimistic tendency in the press. In every past period of high oil prices and slow global growth, Britain has suffered the deepest recession, the biggest jump in unemployment or the highest inflation.
In every past period of high oil prices and slow global growth, Britain has suffered a deep recession
Yet a few months on, Britain has not suffered a recession, the economy is strengthening and the Treasury and external economic forecasters agree that growth will be stronger this year. Tax revenues have come in as forecast and the government is meeting its fiscal rules. The result was a completely different atmosphere in the Commons for Budget day. The economic and fiscal forecasts passed with barely a murmur. Instead, all the interest was on the long-term challenges facing the country and the differences between the two main parties on science and enterprise, the environment and energy, education and public service investment.
I wrote in a previous column that the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England deserves a good slice of the credit for the stability of the British economy in recent years. Back in 2004, when the Bank raised interest rates to slow the housing market, many in business feared this was a mistake. But a stitch in time - or in this case five quarter-point rate rises - succeeded in putting the lid on inflationary pressures. The result has been a steady slowing of the housing market without the kind of jarring adjustment we have seen so often in the past.
What is often underestimated is how important Budget decisions have been in supporting growth. The decision in 1997 to set fiscal rules over the economic cycle, to cut the national debt when the economy was growing and to allow borrowing for public investment have helped the economy to grow.
The result has been rising public investment that has helped to sustain rising economic growth and job creation at a time when America, France, Germany and Japan have all suffered recessions.
In this year's Budget, the Treasury's long-term projections for public finances confirm that the government is projected to meet its fiscal disciplines over the next 40 years. By which time, we will certainly have had a change of chancellor!
Ed Balls is MP for Normanton