PracticePeople In PracticeBrown plays it safe on election night

Brown plays it safe on election night

Jonty Bloom reports from the chancellor of the exchequer's constituency of Dunfermline East - a seat Gordon Brown should win with ease.

Brown is already one the most powerful men in Britain but like all MPs he has to get re-elected. Fortunately for him in his Dunfermline East seat that isn’t a problem.I am covering the count at the local sports centre and frankly if Mr Brown loses I will need an ambulance to take me home.

He is after all defending a vote two times larger than the votes of all the other candidates combined.

Dunfermline East is just the kind of constituency any political party dreams of being able to place its heavy hitters in.

But Brown’s survival as an MP and chancellor of the exchequer is important not only to his party, but to Britain, Europe and sterling.

To a very large extent whether or not Britain goes into the euro is down to Brown. He set the five tests which the government has said must be met if we are to join. And he is responsible for saying whether they have been passed or not.

Although he refuses to be drawn on the issue, Brown is thought to be less keen on Europe than many of his colleagues. The reasons for this aren’t hard to find. Labour has never enjoyed a full second term because its management of the economy has always let it down in the past.

The success of Brown in making the economy a success is likely to play a large part in Labour’s re-election success. That’s something he’s very proud of but he hasn’t finished yet.

In a second term he will have to turn fiscal prudence into investment in better services. Labour is going to find it much more difficult to win a third term if it starts delivering on hospitals, schools and the rest. Which brings us back to the euro. The Tories tried to make it the issue of the election and failed.

But if Labour is re-elected on a platform which includes possible membership of the euro, it doesn’t follow that we will join sometime in the next five years.

Gordon Brown’s thinking may well be why risk it? Even with a massive majority Labour only has so much political capital, joining the euro would eat into it and failing to win a referendum would destroy a great deal of it.

If Brown still wants to be prime minister, funding a transformation for the public sector would look much better than joining a single currency to which much of the national press, and significant proportion of the electorate, is bitterly opposed.

That means Brown’s decision on the euro is possibly even more important than Tony Blair’s. Brown has pretty much a veto on the single currency and, being a son of the Kirk, may decide he prefers the devil he knows to the one he doesn’t. For Labour, and him certainly, it may the easier and the safer option.

  • Jonty Bloom is business reporter with the BBC.

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