Peter Hoskin

This week’s PBR looks set to be Brown’s most political Budget yet

This week's PBR looks set to be Brown's most political Budget yet
Text settings

Ok, so all Brown Budgets are political – but signs are that this week's PBR could be his most blatantly partisan yet.  I mean, just look at his speech this morning on improving efficiency in the public sector.  Some of its measures are welcome – for instance, pledging to cut the pay of senior servants, and the general idea of using technology more effectively in government.  But, as other folk have pointed out (see Guido and Iain Dale), the measures are insufficient to the scale of the debt crisis, and many are old news.  All in all, the signs are as we expected: Brown is paying only lip service to cuts.

Instead, Brown is going to go heavy on soak-the-rich measures; thereby strengthening what Labour see as two dividing lines.  The first: that the Tories are on the side of a privileged few, while Labour make policy for the many.  The second: that tax rises can trump spending cuts.

The result of this, of course, is that the government doesn't have a convincing plan for getting out of its own fiscal mess.  But you suspect Brown won't mind too much.  He's not trying to appeal to investors, who will shun his politicking – but rather to Labour's core vote and anyone else who may be angry at all those fat cats.  In the end, it's all about short-term gain at the risk of medium-term stability.  George Osborne's task, starting with his response to the PBR on Wednesday, will be to get that message across.