Mr Brown has launched a pre-emptive strike against his political enemies

Share
Related Topics

If anyone still harboured any doubts at all about the Government's preferred timing of the next general election, the pre-Budget report delivered yesterday by the Chancellor must surely have allayed them. This was not just a pre-Budget report. It was a pre-election report, cast in such a way as to exude confidence and stability, to anticipate Tory attacks and to offer balm to some especially troubled constituencies.

If anyone still harboured any doubts at all about the Government's preferred timing of the next general election, the pre-Budget report delivered yesterday by the Chancellor must surely have allayed them. This was not just a pre-Budget report. It was a pre-election report, cast in such a way as to exude confidence and stability, to anticipate Tory attacks and to offer balm to some especially troubled constituencies.

Mr Brown boasted of "the longest period of uninterrupted growth in the industrial history of our country", and promised to extend it. He cited figures to show that growth this year would fall plum in the middle of his earlier projections, as would the rate of inflation. He denied absolutely charges that Britain was over-borrowing or would miss any of its fiscal targets. He insisted, despite evidence to the contrary, that the Government was tackling waste. And - to the fury of the trade unions - he committed himself to cut Civil Service numbers and have a total of 20,000 civil servants' jobs moved out of London by 2010.

On the spending side, there was a little something for a great many groups, starting with those old favourites: the "hard-working families". Longer paid maternity leave transferable between partners, more subsidies for child care, more money for the child trust funds that Mr Brown announced this time last year, more pre-school education, schools open from 8am to 6pm to help full-time working parents. All these measures have the appearance of being gender-neutral. In reality, this is the Government's way of trying to woo back those many women voters it fears it has lost over the war in Iraq.

There are promises to cut red tape and to simplify tax for small business, a very modest incentive for savers, increases in winter fuel allowances for older pensioners and more support for local council budgets in an effort to reduce the blame that would inevitably attach to the Government if council tax rose substantially yet again just before the election. Car-owners and country dwellers will benefit from a freeze in vehicle excise duty and petrol tax. For those tempted to defect to the Lib Dems or the Greens, Mr Brown offered Britain's pledge to make climate change the theme of our 2005 G8 presidency and a development fund to foster energy-efficient innovation.

But this was much more than even a pre-election pre-Budget report, promising many small baubles in the future - and nothing too ambitious, too costly or too immediate. It also amounted to a comprehensive defence by Gordon Brown of his personal economic and political record. If there is such a thing as pre-emptive defence, this was it. Mr Brown took on every charge that has been recently levelled against him and anticipated a good many more.

Contrary to many critics, before - and after - his speech, he insisted that he was in no danger whatsoever of breaking his "golden rule" on borrowing. He lashed out against his arch-enemy, Peter Mandelson, who had warned him not to "gloat" about Britain's superior economic performance compared with other EU countries. In his repeated comparisons between Britain and other countries, he also included the United States. The unspoken message was that he was less anti-European than proudly British.

This was a bullish, personal manifesto lauding his own and Britain's economic achievements, placing Britain firmly at the heart of a global Europe, while keeping his feet firmly on the ground. No mention, of course, about his golden inheritance seven years ago, nor about the gap that many believe is already opening up between revenue and spending. Nor even of the tremors in the housing market. Instead, the image presented was of safe, dependable, politically astute Gordon Brown, in tune with grassroots Britain and its day-to-day concerns, sensitive to the needs of business - large and small - and averse to spending large sums of money that are not his to spend. At least until after the election.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?