Brown focuses on the economy

Democracy can seem very slow at times, but on election night it’s brutally quick. By the time the chancellor had finished his round of television and radio interviews after his victory, the sports hall at Lochgelly, where the count was held, had already been cleared.

And those interviews didn’t concentrate on the election, which has just ended, but on economics and the future. Brown was quick to emphasise his prudence once again, hence his emphasis on discipline.

Although Labour will have billions to spend on improving services in the coming months and years, the chancellor is obviously determined not to take his eye off the ball.

He also refused to be drawn on the weakness of sterling or the government’s policy on the euro. ‘I never comment on the foreign exchanges,’ he said, looking as stern as ever. He seemed keen to get back to the office even at one o’clock in the morning.

The pound as slipped heavily against the dollar and slightly against the euro because of the markets expectation that this election victory makes Britain’s membership of the single currency more likely.

But despite another landslide, which to a large degree he organised, Brown remained tight-lipped and unemotional, merely reiterating his line that a decision on whether Great Britain had met the five tests he set will be made within two years.

And with that the chancellor headed back to London and the Treasury. The rumours are his civil servants are preparing a detailed and extensive analysis of those five tests. It’s the kind of academic work that you can well imagine the chancellor looking forward to reading. It just goes to show how little has actually changed.

With an almost identical majority as last time, Labour and Brown see today as a continuation of business as usual. For Brown that, as ever, means discipline and prudence. He and Labour are preparing the ground for the next election in four years times when Lochgelly Sport Centre will once again be the centre of attention for a few hours at least.

  • Jonty Bloom is a business reporter with the BBC.


Election 2001

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