Peter Hoskin

Brown sets the stage for a scorched earth Budget

Brown sets the stage for a scorched earth Budget
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Gordon Brown must be feeling generous today, for he did the Tories two favours on Woman's Hour earlier.  David has already mentioned the first one: Brown saying that he would "keep going" as party leader even if Labour loses the next election, which ups the potential for more summertime Sturm und Drang on his own side.  But the second, as Ben Brogan points out, is his claim that the state of the economy makes it difficult for the government to detail any spending cuts.  The Tories will happily seize on that to justify their own "wait until we see the books" approach.

More broadly, Brown's claim also sets the stage for next week's Budget.  The obvious insinuation is that it won't contain much by way of cuts or new deficit reduction plans.  Instead, we may see some damaging tax rises dressed up as fiscal responsibility.  And Labour will try to get by by repeatedly mouthing their "guarantee" to cut the deficit in half over the next four years.  Meanwhile, the markets look on and tremble.

Of course, as predictions go, a deceptive and irresponsible Budget from Brown is hardly one from the leftfield.  But it does remind you that the next government will have to author a much more severe document – and soon – just to get things in order.  Indeed, even if Brown stays in power, he'll have to introduce some severe deficit reduction plans of his own to pay for his profligacy now, and to match up to that deficit reduction guarantee.  Either that, or we really are sunk.