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Westminster Daily: Budget Special

By London_Nick Last edited 135 months ago
Westminster Daily: Budget Special
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A day late (sorry!), here is Londonist's report on Gordon Brown's 10th Budget.

The Budget - How dull. That is what goes through most people's minds when the Chancellor wields his red budget box every year. This one, however, was different. Widely believed to be Gordon Brown's last budget before he becomes PM, budget number 10 for the Chancellor was seen as a real test of his leadership qualities. It was also the first battlefield between Brown and Cameron, and tested Ming Campbell's credentials, too.

Edcuation became the main battlefield between Brown and Cameron. Brown has decided to throw a lot of money at schools, and specifically sport in schools. Fags and booze will be going up again - a pack of 20 cigarettes will cost 9p more, a pint of beer a penny more, and a bottle of wine 4p more. Duty of champagne, cider, sparkling wine and spirits will be frozen at its current level.

Brown obviously planned to lay out his green credentials in this budget, putting a higher level of tax on higher emissions cars. At this point, the Tory front bench started to point and laugh at "Two Jags John" Prescott - but, for once, the Deputy PM had the last laugh - his Jaguars are in fact fuel efficient, and are exempt from road tax altogether.

For London, there will be a memorial to the victims of the 7/7 bombings erected, and £1m will go to Britons injured by terrorist attacks at home and abroad. For pensioners, free public transport will be provded countrywide, not just in the capital.

All in all, Brown's statement ran to over 60 minutes, when it was predicted at just 48. Then Cameron got to his feet. He viciously attacked the Chancellor, claiming that he is "a politician stuck in the past", that he failed to deliver a truly green Budget, and that "In a carbon conscious world, we got a fossil fuel chancellor". He claimed that the NHS crisis is at such a low that Brown did not even mention it in his statement, and finished with a great line: "He (Brown) is an analogue politician in a digital age. He is the past" Cameron spoke for just nine minutes, battling with an immense amount of noise from the Government benches. There has been a mixed reaction in the media to Cameron's retort, but Londonist feels that he covered all the relevant points in a clear and concise manner, even if he was a little too aggressive.

Ming Campbell gave a very uninspiring response, looking once more like he really doesn't belong in the Commons, let alone at the head of a major party. The number of M.P.s who left the Chamber as soon as Ming started to stumble his way through his speech reflects the poor quality of his oratory skills. He did, however, claim that the budget had missed an opportunity to tackle unfair taxes, face up to the pension crisis and tackle personal debt.

So what of the future? Judging from this budget, the Brown/Cameron battles ahead prove to be a very interesting time for parliamentary politics, and Londonist looks forward to it.

If you want to sit through 62 minutes of Brown's statement, followed by the opposition responses, you can find it on the BBC budget mini-site, which also gives you the budget point-by-point, and tells you what the budget means for you.

Last Updated 23 March 2006