Unrepentant Brown defends Budget as a 'plan for recovery'

PM denies hurling objects at aides and flying into fits of anger during torrid week
Click to follow
Indy Politics

Gordon Brown mounted a passionate defence of the austere Budget package last night, insisting the Government was taking the right decisions for Britain's long-term prosperity.

He said it was essential to levy a new 50p top rate of tax on the super-rich and claimed the Conservatives would "cut, cut and cut again". He was speaking at the end of a torrid week for the Prime Minister, which has seen widespread criticism of the Budget measures and ridicule of his proposals for reforming MPs' expenses.

Downing Street also faced claims yesterday that Mr Brown has been under such pressure that he has thrown a variety of objects at advisers in fits of anger.

Speaking at the Labour Welsh conference in Swansea, he said the Budget amounted to a "plan for recovery". He said similar measures were being taken by President Barack Obama, adding: "If you don't invest in the future, you don't have a future."

He claimed the measures set in train by the Government would protect or create 500,000 jobs. The Prime Minister was also unrepentant about the decision to raise the top rate of tax. He said: "To equip ourselves for the future costs money. That's why it's right that those who have done best in recent years, those who earn above £150,000, pay a bigger burden."

He argued that Britain's debt levels were bigger than those in many other countries. Mr Brown – who repeatedly referred to "our new Labour Government" in response to claims the new Labour project is dead – said: "We're taking the right decisions for the short-term and the long-term."

But Downing Street was earlier thrown on the defensive over a report by the wire service Bloomberg which said it had received first-hand accounts about working alongside Mr Brown.

It claimed: "The strain shows, say current and former Brown aides. Among other things, it has inflamed a temper that has always been the subject of gallows humour among those who work with him, they say.

"The Prime Minister, 58, has hurled pens and even a stapler at aides, according to one. He says he once saw the leader ... shove a laser printer off a desk in a rage. Another aide was warned to watch out for 'flying Nokias' when he joined Brown's team.

"One staffer says a colleague developed a technique called a 'news sandwich' – first telling the Prime Minister about a recent piece of good coverage before delivering bad news, and then moving quickly to tell him about something good coming soon."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman dismissed the report as "unsubstantiated and unsourced nonsense" that he would not have expected to have read on a newswire. He said he did not recognise the events described.

After the success of the G20 summit in London three weeks ago, Mr Brown has endured a miserable rash of headlines. Controversy over the expenses claims of Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, and Tony McNulty, the Employment minister, caused the Government severe embarrassment.

The "Smeargate" saga – which saw his adviser Damian McBride forced to quit over plans to spread malicious gossip over senior Tories – was a further setback to his hopes of recovery.

Mr Brown received a boost yesterday after a poll found he and Alistair Darling had regained their lead over David Cameron and George Osborne as the team most trusted on the economy. The survey, for BBC2's Daily Politics programme, found 34 per cent of voters trusted the Prime Minister and Chancellor most to steer Britain through the recession (up from 28 per cent at the beginning of March). A total of 31 per cent named Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne (down from 35 per cent).

A Labour MP mounted an attack on the Government's response to the recession yesterday as he announced he would step down at the next election.

Colin Burgon, the MP for Elmet, West Yorkshire, said: "The 'New Labour' approach to the market economy is both wrong and lacks the kind of values that have served this party so well in the difficult times in our history."