James Forsyth

New Year, same old Brown

New Year, same old Brown
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Gordon Brown was on Andrew Marr this morning. Brown didn’t make much news but I thought there were three aspects of the interview that tell us much about how Brown intends to campaign. First, take his response to Marr pressing him about how Labour would cut the deficit:

“No, we're raising your taxes to do it. You will have to pay more in the top rate of tax to do it. The pension tax reliefs that were very generous in the past have had to be removed. We're raising national insurance by 1% to protect our public services so that we can still spend more on health and more on education and more on policing.

ANDREW MARR: (over) And even given … I'm sorry …

GORDON BROWN: And we are taking the difficult decisions that the Conservatives refuse to take, to halve the deficit over the next four years.” If Brown even for a moment thinks that measures will halve the deficit in four years then he needs remedial maths lessons. The Treasury claims that the 50p rate will raise £2.4bn a year, the IFS that the pension changes will net the government an extra £500 million and the National Insurance rise is meant to bring in another £3 billion. This is hardly significant money compared to the £178 billion deficit.

I credit Brown with having enough intelligence to know that these measures are nowhere near enough to halve the deficit. But he has clearly decided that he is going to go hard with the canard that raising taxes on the rich and a national insurance hike will be enough to do the job and allow the government to carry on spending more on the most popular services. It is essential that interviewers start calling him on this line. Brown was tactically clever to throw Marr off by making his response about raising taxes on the rich so personal, but he shouldn’t be able to get away with this tactic a second time.

The second noticeable thing is that Brown has no interest in trying to portray himself as some above politics figure, Cameron was trying to do this in both his New Year message and his speech on Saturday. Brown is instead going to be a unashamed partisan. Note how when Marr tried to stop him talking about the Tories, Brown replied, “Well they made the wrong judgement on everything.”

Finally, Brown is going to chase every crisis for a headline that makes him look like a big figure on the global stage. When Marr pushed him on whether he had actually spoken to Obama about the British American anti-terrorist cooperation in Yemen, as implied by various briefings, Brown revealingly replied, “Not directly.” In other words, whatever had been implied Brown and Obama haven’t talked about this.  

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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