Peter Hoskin

Brown faces the horror of the petrol pumps

Brown faces the horror of the petrol pumps
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Yes, I know, cause and correlation aren't the same thing – but Mike Smithson's latest graph over at Political Betting is still incredibly striking.  It shows that the Tories' strongest poll position over the last few years coincided with a high in the petrol price.  It also shows that the smallest gap between Labour and the Tories coincided with when petrol prices were at their lowest.  Which all makes today's Telegraph story about petrol potentially hitting a new high of 120p a litre, as the election approaches, very resonant indeed.

The problem for the government is twofold.  First, rising petrol prices are something which millions of people will understand and feel, so much more so than abstract talk about cuts, deficits and the like.  And, second, it focuses attention on Alistair Darling's Budget next week.  It won't be that surprising if he delays next month's planned rise in fuel duty, to try and defuse this issue politically.  But even that will encourage more questions about the government's deficit reduction plan, and about whether they have made up the fiscal shortfall elsewhere.  In the end, it's pretty much a lose-lose situation for Brown & Co.

P.S. If you need a reminder of how Gordon Brown can struggle in the face of rising petrol prices, then it's worth going back to his 2008 interview with Fern Britton, from around the one-minute mark: