Gordon Brown entrenched his position as Prime Minister-in-waiting as he unveiled a major funding boost for schools in his Budget yesterday.
The Chancellor pledged to provide an extra #34 billion over five years for colleges.
The announcement was the centrepiece of a Budget which could be Mr Brown's last before taking over the Labour leadership and moving into Number 10.
He even began his speech with a joke about his ambition to move on to his "next important position in Government".
But in marked contrast to the focus on education, health was barely mentioned at all.
Conservative critics accused the Chancellor of ignoring the financial crisis facing the NHS. It emerged this week that West Midland hospitals are #85 million in debt.
Mr Brown also quietly abolished a #200 council tax rebate for pensioners, introduced before the last election.
The Chancellor stressed his commitment to helping the environment - and slapped new taxes on "gas-guzzling" vehicles such as those produced by Land Rover, which employs 8,000 in Solihull.
Every four-by-four vehicle produced by Land Rover except one will be affected, but a spokesman for the firm yesterday insisted the levy would not affect sales.
Cars with the highest carbon emissions will pay vehicle excise duty of #210, up from #175.
There was a boost for public transport as the Chancellor announced plans to give pensioners free national bus travel, alongside the free local travel they are already entitled to.
However, the single largest item of new expenditure announced yesterday was an extra #800 million to support British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Brown entered into the debate over reforms to local government in the West Midlands by publishing Budget papers identifying a "Birmingham/West Midlands city region", including Wolverhampton, Coventry and Lichfield.
Local Government Minister David Miliband has launched a consultation on the possibility of an official Birmingham City Region, which could have its own elected mayor.
Following on from Britain's success in securing the 2012 Olympic Games, the Chancellor hinted that he would attempt to secure the 2018 World Cup for the country if he became Prime Minister.
The comment was immediately picked up by Birmingham MPs, who called for the city to seize the opportunity.
Khalid Mahmood (Lab Perry Barr) said: "Birmingham would be the ideal location to host the Cup."
As expected, the Budget included plans to tax super-casinos by imposing duty of #5,000 a year on unlimited jackpot gaming machines.
Mr Brown described his Budget as one "for Britain's future to secure fairness for each child and invest in every child".
But Conservative leader David Cameron called him an "old fashioned tax and spend Chancellor" who had given the UK the "biggest tax burden in history".
Labour's Rob Marris (Wolverhampton South West) said the Chancellor should have gone further with an "absolutely swingeing regime" for high-polluting cars.
More on the budget: