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You would hardly have expected the huge taxation and public spending increase announced in Gordon Brown's Budget to be greeted with whoops of delight by a majority of MPs in the House of Commons.

Labour cheered him to the rafters when he sat down after his 58-minute speech on the assumption that the chancellor had restored, at a stroke, the ailing national health service. All this, of course, was music to a socialist’s ears. Those who support Brown have been saying privately that this was more than just a massive shot in the arm for the NHS, but also a swipe at the Blairites.

It is no secret the chancellor still broods to this day over the way he believes he was duped out of the Labour leadership on the death of John Smith in 1994. Nor has he given up hope of eventually becoming PM.

And on Wednesday he boosted his popularity with the vast majority of the Labour back-benchers. The prime minister was compelled to look enraptured by Mr Brown’s success.

Meanwhile, the mutterings on the Tory benches were about the dishonouring of Labour’s general election pledge not to increase income tax. And when the chancellor was asked, during that campaign, whether he might increase national insurance contributions, he scoffed at the very idea. Those present noticed that as he did so, Mr Brown uttered this denial while fidgeting almost frantically with his pen.

The prime minister was doing the same. They looked guilty before they had committed the ‘offence’.

I took issue at a conference the other day with an MP who accused the media of feeding the disillusionment among voters with politics. You don’t need, I said, the media to feed the disillusionment when you have politicians – and all parties, not just Labour doing it – breaking promises without any apology, explanation or acknowledgement it has happened.

  • Chris Moncrieff is a senior political analyst at PA news

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