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Last Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008, 07:33 GMT
Troubled chancellors and Budget Day blues
With rows over non-doms, controversial proposals to change capital gains tax rules and most damagingly, the nationalisation of Northern Rock, Alistair Darling has had a tough time since becoming chancellor last June.

But as he delivers his first budget this week, at least he can take solace in the knowledge that he is not the first chancellor to face a tough political battle or a tottering economy.

PHILIP SNOWDON: 1924 & 1929-1931

Philip Snowdon
Philip Snowdon was the first Labour chancellor

Philip Snowdon was the first Labour chancellor and his 1931 budget took place in the midst of the Great Depression.

Taxes were raised and unemployment benefits and the salaries of government employees were slashed - the latter leading to the Invergordon naval mutiny, and demonstrations by teachers and others.

This led to the formation of the National government after some Labour cabinet ministers resigned.

These measures were designed to end the financial crisis and keep the pound sterling on the gold standard; however a week or so later Britain left the gold standard and devalued the pound.

HUGH DALTON: 1945-1947

Hugh Dalton
Mr Dalton's indiscretion cost him his job

For weeks the media has been awash with details of what is likely to appear in the chancellor's 2008 budget - though what Mr Darling will actually reveal is supposed to be a closely guarded secret.

So spare a thought for Hugh Dalton who resigned as Labour's Chancellor after it emerged that he had inadvertently divulged his plans to a lobby journalist on the eve of his 1947 Budget statement.

The news appeared in The Star newspaper on the morning of the budget, leaving Dalton with no alternative but to apologise to the House and resign.

ANTHONY BARBER: 1970-1974

Anthony Barber
Anthony Barber was not helped by the 1973 oil crisis
Anthony Barber delivered the first budget of the new Conservative government in 1971, which announced the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT), to come into play from 1973.

By 1972, the economy was dominated by industrial unrest and stagflation - a combination of inflation and slow growth - which until this point, most economists had thought was unlikely.

Barber's budget of that year saw large tax cuts to deal with rising unemployment but led to high inflation, which prompted efforts to rein it in.

The 1973 oil crisis added to price woes, and prompted added turmoil among workers such as miners - militancy which led to a miners strike and the three-day week.

When Ted Heath called an election in 1974, the Labour government won out.

DENIS HEALEY: 1974-1979

Denis Healey with wife Edna on Budget day
Denis Healey's policies often split the Labour Party

During Denis Healey's time at 11 Downing Street, Britain asked the International Monetary Fund for a 2.3bn bail out - saying unemployment and inflation were at exceptional levels.

The handout meant that the country was subject to IMF supervision and the imposition of budget cuts.

In 1976 at the Labour Party conference, Mr Healey was called upon to stem a revolt over economic policies.

He agreed, leaving Heathrow Airport from where he was due to travel to the US to meet the IMF, and instead flying back to Blackpool.

The then Labour Party chairman Tom Bradley, who had urged Healey to return later recalled: "When Denis arrived I called his name to come up to the platform and they booed and hissed him all the way to the microphone."

Healey later had freeze on public spending and tried to introduce a national pay deal which, opposed by the unions, backfired and led to the Winter of Discontent in 1978-79.

Despite his tough times, many Labour party members referred to him as "the best Prime Minister we never had".

NORMAN LAMONT: 1990-1993

Norman Lamont
Mr Lamont talked of "green shoots of recovery" which did not materialise

Having hiked VAT from 15% to 17.5% in 1991 to reduce the controversial poll tax or community charge by about 140, - the leader of the opposition, Neil Kinnock, described Mr Lamont's actions as the "biggest climb-down in modern political history".

But easily his most humbling act came in 1992 when, having insisted that he would not have to withdraw the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), he did just that only a week later on Black Wednesday.

One of his political advisers at about this time was a certain David Cameron.

After the recession struck in 1992, Mr Lamont later said that "the green shoots of recovery" could be seen all around - though few such signs ever materialised.

He left office with a huge budget deficit, which grew further under his successor, and was inherited by Labour when they took power in 1997.

ALISTAIR DARLING: 2007-PRESENT

Alistair Darling
Mr Darling has become chancellor at a difficult time

Mr Darling has a cat called Sybil - reportedly named after the long-suffering wife of the even-longer-suffering hotelier in the TV sitcom Fawlty Towers.

But it hard to imagine even poor Basil enduring a series of calamities on the scale of those which have befallen the chancellor since he came to office in late June last year.

Gordon Brown, it seems, got out just in time before a string of unfortunate events struck the Treasury.

Mr Darling has been unfortunate to be in charge of the purse strings during the sub-prime mortgage crisis - which has savaged global markets.

The liquidity crisis which ensued prompted the woes at Northern Rock - which suffered the first run on a British bank in almost 150 years resulting in it being propped up by taxpayer money.

And last month, after much uncertainty, the chancellor decided to take the beleaguered lender into temporary public ownership - the first UK nationalisation since the 1970s.

Also on Mr Darling's watch came the child benefit data scandal - when the confidential details of about 25 million people seemingly went missing after computer discs were lost.

And he appears not to have appreciated the upshot of some of his own actions - changes to capital gains tax and the tax regime for non-doms - both of which have been seen as reactions to apparently popular Tory policies.

The chancellor will be hoping that this budget proves to be a turning point.





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