The Sketch: Frankly, it's Field who has solution to Gordon's woes

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The Independent Online

Is it cynical to think this is sensible? Or sensible to think it cynical? It's probably cynical to think it cynical but then it's the way they do things round here.

Frank Field's famous amendment about the 10p tax band related to Clause 3. If the Finance Bill was considered in its natural sequence, then, Field would be debated at 3.30 – in time for the newspaper deadlines. So, the whips (that is, Geoff Hoon) organised the scrutiny to begin with Clauses 5, 6 and 21 (then returning to Field about 10.30pm, and finishing who knows when?

Gordon wants to publish his voter-friendly arrangements in time for the local elections on Thursday – but he doesn't want anyone to know he's changed his mind. His understanding of Third Way theory needs more work.

But if Gordon has "got it" and defused the row, this sort of tricksiness wouldn't be necessary. If there were a happy story to tell, they'd want it out in time for the Six O'Clock News. They must be terrified of the Field's questions: 1) How many losers are there (not counting the PM)? And 2) will all compensation be backdated? Those are the questions that Yvette Cooper failed, at great length, to answer on Newsnight.

There's some energy in the rebellion yet, I feel.

Gordon flings his throwing sticks out, hoping to bring down some great prey. But they're boomerangs. They return – sometimes after years (Grangemouth is caused by his £5bn a year pension tax) – and whack him right where it hurts, in the back of his head. Boomerang Brown. Dong! "Och! McBlast! Who threw that! They shall be punished!" Only too true.

But here's an interesting exception. The fact that Brown caused Frank Field to be sacked all those years ago – I don't think that was one of the boomerangs. In all my conversations with Field over the years I've never managed to extract any personal venom from him about Brown. Christians can be annoying like that.

Frank's other admirable contribution to Labour thinking may yet bear fruit (the Tories should nick it). Abolish the vast, impenetrable apparatus of tax credits and use the money to take 5p off the basic rate of tax. It would give Labour a fourth term in a way nothing else could ... But then they are looking forward to "refreshing themselves with a period of opposition".

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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