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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Subject Leader of ICT & Computing

£21588 - £36756 per annum + negotiable: Randstad Education Chelmsford: ICT/Com...

C# Senior Web developer (C#, VBA, Strong Education,C++, JAVA)

£40000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Senio...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

£45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Brazil fans are devastated while watching the first half on Copacabana Beach during the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final match between Brazil and Germany on July 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The winner advances to the final at the famed Maracana stadium.  

The response to Brazil's defeat has been a surreal exploration of loss and tragedy

Timothy Kennett
The Daily Prophet newspaper - closer to fact than fiction?  

The response to the new Harry Potter story by the muggle media is fantastically ironic

Anna Leszkiewicz
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil