Anorak News | Budget Shakedown

Budget Shakedown

by | 18th, March 2004

‘GORDON Brown hasn’t been able to open his mouth for the past few years without pundits ruminating on how each utterance relates to his well-known wish to be Prime Minister.

House hunting?

So, when this morning’s Times headlines its Budget coverage with the highly ambiguous, ‘The Race For No.10 Starts Here’, it hardly needs to reinforce the point with a front-page cartoon of Mr Brown reading a pamphlet, saying ‘New Homes: Supply Lags Behind Demand’, and dreaming of Downing Street.

Any race for No.10 these days involves not only Tony Blair and whoever his Tory challenger du jour is, but also the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

However, what all the papers agree upon is that Mr Brown’s eighth Budget, delivered yesterday, was designed to keep Michael Howard away from Britain’s most famous political address.

‘This was an intensely political performance,’ says the Telegraph with grudging admiration, ‘by a Chancellor on triumphalist form, aimed unashamedly at wrongfooting the Opposition in advance of the next election.’

The Guardian agrees, although it sees Brown’s own agenda coming to the fore.

‘From beginning to end the aim of the speech was clear,’ it says. ‘To stake out the political battleground of the next 15 months and ensure that when combat is joined in earnest, it is on Brown’s terms. Not the Government’s, but his.’

So, what were the main measures announced in yesterday’s hour-long speech?

Er, we turn to the Indy’s ‘Budget At A Glance’ and can tell you that beer’s up a penny a pint, fags are up 8p a packet of 20, fuel’s up by 1.9p a litre and education’s up by £13bn in the next couple of years.

As Mr Brown trumpeted the longest sustained period of growth for 200 years, Mr Howard accused him of being a ‘credit card chancellor’ who had produced a ‘borrow now, tax later Budget’.

However, the truth is that, apart from tax specialists and political anoraks, there was not much in what Mr Brown said to get excited about.

Most of the speech was taken up by boasting about public spending increases that already taken place or were going to take place.

But for all that the Guardian says the whole speech could be summed up in four words, ‘Polling day is coming’, the papers have to produce reams and reams of reaction, analysis, graphics and pictures of ‘ordinary’ people.

Happily, however, these days the Guardian’s 12-page, the Telegraph’s 16-page, Times’ 24-page and the Indy’s 32-page Budget specials all come in the form of a supplement.

A quick shake of the paper in the newsagent’s and we can all enjoy a Budget-free morning…’

Posted: 18th, March 2004 | In: Broadsheets Comment | TrackBack | Permalink