Gordon Brown, so controlling and demanding, and reportedly high on the autistic spectrum, has never understood how the economy fell from out of his grasp. Having inherited the golden economic legacy from the Conservatives in 1997, nothing his clunking fist could get hold of stayed the way he wanted. Through political fudges and not exactly subtle stealth taxes – and let us not forget such highlights as the gold sell off disaster and unforgivable 10p tax abolition – Brown will be recorded by future historians as one of the least credible economic figures in British political history.
His attempt today to force Alistair Darling into yet another ventriloquists act has done nothing to rescue his reputation one inch. The Budget today is a middle of gimmicks and aspirations; above all else, it is the equivalent of treading water. Darling did not want the end of his career to come like this, reading out Gordon Brown’s words, coming up with sticking plaster solutions to the serious debt and unemployment issues facing the country. But Darling had no choice.
Today’s budget has few highlights. I welcome the tax-break scheme for British video game developers, an overdue recognition. The increase in the ISA limit is one I genuinely applaud.
I certainly don’t welcome the sneeky “freeze” on personal tax allowances, the oldest trick in the book, one to increase Government tax intake.
Freezing Inheritance Tax at £325,000 could cost an additional £37,000 in real terms.
And as for the 10% hike in the cost of cider – what exactly is this going to achieve? Oh yes, that’s right, the Brown “new puritan” drive, the same “ban everything, tax everyone, full naked body scanners for all!” mantra we have heard year after year. “Has he taxed curry, music and sunshine?” asks a work colleague.
The problem with this budget, of course, is how shallow it is, from the moment Darling stood to the minute he was duly patted on the back by his Master. There is nothing in this budget because Brown needs yet more breathing space before calling the election. His hatred of uncertainty, of things out of his control, will soon catch up with him. An election cannot be delayed much longer, and everyone in the Chamber knows this to be true.
This was the introduction. Now the main show. Time to show the depth to the slogans, the meat on the bones, and call the election.