Budget 1999: Red Gordon and the Iron Chancellor sit happily together

"REDISTRIBUTION BY stealth" is a phrase that entered the Treasury lexicon in the run-up to the Budget. Although the slogan was not intended for public use, it will enter the political bloodstream.

Such talk does not go down well in Tony Blair's inner circle, which would prefer that Gordon Brown stuck to his City image as the "Iron Chancellor" rather than playing his role as "Red Gordon" in front of the Labour Party gallery.

Yesterday's Mr Brown sought to play both parts at once but Mr Blair was happy enough. He calculated that next year's surprise 1p off the basic rate of tax, plus the 10p bottom rate, which starts next month, would be the best antidote to the Tory attack on Labour's "stealth taxes".

William Hague is convinced the voters will rumble the Chancellor once the initial gloss of yesterday's package wears off. But Mr Brown and Mr Blair believe their trump is that the pain they inflict on the well-off will be alleviated by falling interest rates, which have saved the homeowner pounds 900 a year on average mortgage payments.

Mr Blair paid a generous tribute when the Cabinet was given a preview of the Budget, describing it as "radical and imaginative". Indeed, Mr Blair believes Mr Brown has not got full credit for his stewardship of the economy. Mr Blair thinks the Chancellor has laid such firm foundations that it will be be difficult for the Tories to dent Labour's reputation for economic competence before the next general election.

The ecstatic reception from Labour MPs last night will also have cheered Mr Brown.

"Gordon wants to get the credit with the Labour Party because he is still desperate to be leader," one minister close to Mr Blair said.

Mr Brown is probably the most powerful Chancellor we have had for a long time, yet even his friends admit he can seem remarkably insecure.

His enemies attribute this to his thwarted ambition in 1994, when John Smith died and Mr Blair, the junior partner in the Brown-Blair axis, inherited the crown.

The Chancellor is stubborn. He does not like to change course, or admit he has been proved wrong. He ploughed on with his working families tax credit - even when alarm bells rang in 10 Downing Street about the cost.

Mr Brown saw no need for last month's high-profile statement by Mr Blair unveiling the national changeover plan to prepare Britain for the single currency. The two men have reversed roles on the euro; Mr Brown used to be more gung-ho, and Mr Blair more cautious. "He just wants to get on with running the economy now; the euro is a bit of a distraction," said one Labour ally.

Mr Brown has had an unhappy few months. The death of his father, which hit him hard, was followed quickly over Christmas by the resignation of two of his inner circle, the Treasury minister Geoffrey Robinson and Charlie Whelan, his press secretary, in the crisis which also claimed the scalp of Peter Mandelson, a friend turned foe of Mr Brown.

But allies insist the Chancellor has recovered from the setbacks, and that his girlfriend, Sarah Macauley, has been a "rock" during the troubled times. "He is relaxed and enjoying life again," said one ally on the Labour back benches.

Despite Mr Blair's praise, the tension between their camps remain barely beneath the surface. One Blairite said: "It was worth losing Peter Mandelson in order to get rid of Charlie Whelan, because Peter will come back and Charlie won't."

The Blairites sometimes wonder whether the Chancellor has a fatal flaw stemming from his haunting fear that he will miss out on becoming prime minister. Mr Brown's supporters believe yesterday's clever package will enhance his prospects of winning the big prize. And yet Mr Blair no longer believes it is inevitable that Mr Brown will be the man who succeeds him.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

PMO Analyst - Risk - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Risk - Banking - London - £350 - £4...

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

DevOps Engineer - Linux, Shell, Bash, Solaris, UNIX, Salt-Stack

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: A fast growing Financial Services organisation b...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?