City has a flutter on Brown's prudent language

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Gordon Brown would be horrified at the idea of such a rash investment, but a firm of City bookmakers is taking bets on how many times the Chancellor uses the word "prudence" in this week's pre-Budget report.

Gordon Brown would be horrified at the idea of such a rash investment, but a firm of City bookmakers is taking bets on how many times the Chancellor uses the word "prudence" in this week's pre-Budget report.

To make matters worse for the financially cautious, the book has been opened by City Index, which specialises in spread betting - a form of gambling where the losses can be unpredictable.

Mr Brown has made prudence his favourite verbal weapon as he has toiled to convince the City that a Labour Chancellor can keep tight control on the public purse strings.

Ed Nicholson, the betting company's head of marketing, said: "In his pre-Budget speech of two years ago, Gordon Brown declared that, 'We will always be prudent'. Since then, he has been true to his words."

This reached a peak in March this year, when Mr Brown's Budget was entitled "Prudent for a Purpose". His accompanying speech to the Commons included seven uses of the words prudence, imprudence, prudent or imprudent.

City Index is inviting people to stake between £1 and £50 on whether Mr Brown will utter his beloved buzzword more or less times than the two to three uses which the firm's experts are predicting.

Mr Nicholson claimed that guessing the number of allusions to the Chancellor's pet subject was, in theory, less taxing than predicting other crucial questions, such as how many times he will sip water and how long he will take to deliver his speech.

But Treasury sources indicated that Mr Brown could go against form. The term "prudent" might not even appear in the title of the PBR, which is expected to be called Building Long-Term Prosperity For All.

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