Brown prepares for pre-Budget report

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown will today set out future battle lines with the Conservatives, as he opens Labour's onslaught on the opposition just a day before David Cameron's expected accession to the Tory leadership.

The Chancellor will use his pre-budget report to contrast his stewardship of the economy with the inexperience of Mr Cameron and the shadow Chancellor, George Osborne.

Mr Brown's supporters hope that his speech tomorrow will cement his position as Labour leader in waiting, and provide a vivid example of the leadership that Mr Cameron's team are unable to provide.

Tony Blair is expected to join Mr Brown to highlight a scheme to help thousands of first-time buyers get a foot on the property ladder, under a shared ownership deal with the Nationwide and the Halifax/Royal Bank of Scotland.

Under the scheme, buyers will take a 75 per cent stake in their homes, while the Treasury and the banks will share the remaining 25 per cent.

In his pre-Budget report, Mr Brown is also expected to insist that the British economy has weathered the storm of globalisation and hail the UK as having highest growth rate in Europe.

He will deliver an unrepentant report, despite being forced to downgrade his growth forecasts to bring them more into line with predictions of around 1.8 per cent. Mr Brown forecast a growth rate of between 3 per cent and 3.5 per cent just eight months ago in the Budget.

The Chancellor is expected to highlight long term policies to promote science, research and development, transport infrastructure and housing, and contrast them with Mr Cameron's plans to re-brand the Conservatives.

Meanwhile, Peter Mandelson has launched an extraordinary attack on Mr Brown, accusing the Chancellor of "going over the top" in his demands for reform of European farm subsidies.

The European trade commissioner, who is representing the EU in world trade talks, said Mr Brown was "missing the point" in pressing for cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in order to clinch a deal that would open up international markets to poorer countries.

"I think he's going somewhat over the top in asking for that," Mr Mandelson told ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme yesterday. " Obviously, as ever with Gordon, there is a kernel of truth in what he asks for. In essence he's right - the CAP needs reform - but he needs to say it in a better proportion than he seemed to be suggesting yesterday."

Mr Mandelson said removing trade barriers could harm the people the Government is trying to help. "The Chancellor needs to ask himself who he thinks he's going to benefit," he said.

Treasury sources said the Government could not allow differences over farm subsidies to block a deal for the world's poorest people.