The ghost of a chancellor’s past

But he appears intent on alienating large swathes of the business community,
stretching the credulity of others and generally antagonising as many people as
possible before he does so.

We’ll put his Budget sleight of hand over lower rates of income tax to one
side. And we won’t bring up his parallel decision to hike small business
taxation while presenting it as tax-neutral. Instead we’ll concentrate on his
abolition of advanced corporation tax ten years ago, a decision that came back
to haunt him this Easter holiday.

The Treasury’s implication that it had had the support of the CBI was shot
down. Meanwhile Brown’s set-piece press conference defence – flanked by Tony
Blair – said the measure ‘was the right decision for investment, and it was the
right decision for the future of our pension system, and it was the right
decision for the future of our economy’ was a political soundbite, not a
reasoned analysis.

Perhaps he should have listened to us. Just weeks ahead of the 1997 election
on this page we wrote of his mooted ACT plans: ‘Pension funds are going to be
the losers and they will suffer this year, next year, the year after that, and
every year until each of us collects our gold watch and bus pass’.

To that we added: ‘He has to show he does not view pension funds as City
demons, but as the pool of savings that will make us self-reliant individuals in
our old age. ’

Brown has done his reputation little good in recent weeks. As a new
chancellor he had to convince the business community he understood its needs. As
PM he might need to do so all over again.

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