Roll back the tapes to a different political and economic era and you might find Michael Noonan struggling to deliver a punch on a fast-speaking Bertie Ahern, writes Mícheál Lehane.

The scene is a television election debate in 2002.

It’s the second last day of campaigning and the Taoiseach of the day has growth and jobs figures coming out of his ears.

The leader of the opposition can only sit back and languidly say Ahern is akin to a cockerel in the morning who believes the dawn is the fruit of his crowing.  

The election results a few days later confirmed voters’ belief that there was a tangible link between Governments and an improved economy.

It’s a political truth that Minister Noonan will be fairly confident still holds sway when he delivers his fifth budget.

His figures today are on par with anything offered by the Government he forlornly tried to replace in 2002.

In many ways though, they are far more spectacular, given the economic desolation of the country when Minister Noonan took over as Finance Minister in March 2011.

They are indeed budget figures that will allow Fine Gael TDs to make the journey to Leinster House today, with an ebullience that would have been difficult to predict five years ago.

Back then the early enthusiasm of being in Government had started to wane for many backbenchers.

The euphoria of winning a seat had given way to the grim task of justifying cuts to things like the carers’ hours and the respite care grant.

There was little comfort in the air politically at the time.

But there was the constant assurance provided by Mr Noonan at parliamentary party meetings through those difficult days.

Central to it was the expectation that Budget 2016 would give voters something back.

That political calculation has proved to be remarkably accurate. It will offer Fine Gael TDs travelling to Dublin today a renewed belief that they will continue to make this weekly trip after Election 2016.

For the Labour Party this budget offers hope but little certainty.

Increases to several Social Protection payments coupled with more money for childcare would seem perfect ammunition for a party about to seek re-election.  

Add to this: cuts to the deeply unpopular USC, an already announced hike in the minimum wage and more spending on public services and social housing.

But for all that, Labour’s lofty promises of 2011 mean most of the Party’s TDs await the impending judgement of voters with no little apprehension, notwithstanding this budget.

All sides will be mindful too, albeit instinctively perhaps, of the budget selling advice of former Dowling Street spin doctor, Damian McBride.

In his memoir McBride writes about the importance of having “expectations in the right place on some of the key growth or borrowing figures.”  

The Coalition did just that in its Spring Statement.  But of course the €1.5bnfor tax cuts and spending increases outlined in the Springtime has been substantially augmented in recent days.

Whatever about McBride’s advice, what of Charlie’s McCreevy’s candid admission on the politics of budgets closer to home?

Despite the at times incredulous tone of TDs who questioned the former Finance Minister at the Oireachtas banking inquiry earlier this year, some of his answers remain undeniably pertinent today.  

When asked at the inquiry if elections impacted on budget thinking, McCreevy said: “Of course ... we are politicians and we actually like to be re-elected.”

True, the Government’s budget plans are within the rules of course.

The extra money announced last weekend, some €1.5bn again, has gone into supplementary estimates.  But importantly this will raise Government spending next year.

All the while the country is meeting and even exceeding its deficit targets.  

Two questions remain though: With spending on the up could expectations become difficult to contain and could the Coalition leave themselves open to criticism that the election was too big an influence on this budget?  

Amid all the unbridled optimism that will be evident on the Government benches today, those questions must surely pose some worry.