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Budget2000 Wednesday, 22 March, 2000, 11:39 GMT
Budget: Full press round-up

Wednesday's national press is dominated by the Budget. Click on the links below to read what the newspapers have to say.

  • The Mirror
  • The Sun
  • The Express
  • The Daily Mail
  • The Guardian
  • The Times
  • The Telegraph
  • The Independent
  • The Financial Times

    The Mirror

    The Mirror declares the budget to be a "kiss of life" for the health service.

    The paper's health correspondent Jill Palmer says the extra cash for the NHS is just what the service needs. "At last the government has put its money where its mouth is."

    "For three years, Tony Blair has repeated his commitment to the NHS. Now he has proved he means what he says.

    "He has shown that actions speak louder than words, that cash speaks louder than promises."

    The paper also praises the chancellor for improving the lot of pensioners, low paid families, working woman and children in poverty.

    "And it didn't need to cynically clobber the rich to do so.

    "Proof that Labour is handling the economy brilliantly well, and that we have in Mr Brown a quite exceptional chancellor."

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    The Sun

    "50 to fill a Mondeo," declares The Sun's front page, referring to the 2p increase on a litre of petrol and the mythical middle class middle England "Mondeo Man" voter chased by both Tories and Labour.

    The paper's motoring correspondent Ken Gibson writes: "Motorists won't be giving Gordon Brown a pat on the back today - because he simply doesn't deserve one.

    "His decision not to put up petrol duty above the rate of inflation will STILL mean the average motorist pays an extra 30 a year, taking the average annual fuel bill to 1,260."

    The paper's leader column reserves judgement "until we've seen ALL the fine print".

    "The Sun has given a whole-hearted welcome to three Brown Budgets only to find there was hidden bad news on taxes.

    "This time we're taking a leaf out of his book. We're being prudent. We're giving this Budget the seven-day test. It may look different next week."

    The paper's white van man, Mark Hughes of Wrexham, echoes that: "A well delivered speech, but can you trust what he's saying?"

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    The Express

    The Express praises the Budget as a vote-winning performance.

    Its leader says: "Yesterday's speech has something for everyone: extra spending on the NHS and education, tax cuts for enterprise, money for pensioners, greater tax relief for charities and workfare - all within the context of the prudence for which Mr Brown has rightly become renowned."

    It concludes: "No Budget ever satisfies. Yesterday's was no exception.

    "But this was a Budget worthy of a chancellor at the height of his powers. Like all the government's best plans, it will take time to have an impact.

    "But with no opposition to speak of, time is something the government has in spades."

    Columnist Andrew Marr believes the "vast programme of investment" announced by Mr Brown illustrates how shaken the government was by the revolt of traditional Labour supporters over the NHS crisis.

    But there were plenty of spending areas which were overlooked, says Marr.

    "Compared to the recent industrial blows for the north and midlands, yesterday's extra help is a fleabite."

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    Daily Mail

    In the Daily Mail, Simon Heffer suggest Mr Brown's behaviour is "somewhat schizoid".

    "This marriage of Thatcherite liberal economics with old-fashioned socialism, is, I fear, a dog's breakfast, and will lead to tears before long."

    Edward Heathcoat Amory's analysis concludes that there will be a "substantial boost for the incomes of those at the bottom of the scale.

    "This might seem very laudable, but it is the hard-working people of middle Britain who are footing the bill for the chancellor's bleeding wallet."

    Paul Johnson says the Budget was a speech of a "prime minister in waiting".

    Brown is a magician "who deceives the eye and does not always tell the strict truth in his rapid patter," he writes.

    "But a lot of hard and highly-sophisticated thinking has gone into Brown's formula, and Blair should congratulate himself that at the Treasury he has a man who, unlike most chancellors, especially Labour ones, is more likely to win an election than lose it."

    The paper's leader also praises Brown's "extraordinarily impressive performance" and a reminder of how Labour has changed.

    Middle England will pay the bill this time around but the paper predicts the next Budget will be payback time - just before the next election

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    The Guardian

    By increasing health spending by 6.1% a year and simultaneously tightening the fiscal stance The Guardian says Mr Brown "again pulled off the political conjuring trick we are now getting used to".

    Praising his fourth Budget the paper says it will: "Appease the Labour heartlands, mollify middle England and stimulate small businesses ahead of a general election next year."

    Commentator Polly Toynbee also praises the Budget for giving to the NHS, poor working families and pensioners but adds that "something is missing".

    "We want him to talk to us, his people, but he insists on talking to the enemy too."

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    The Times

    Labelling the Budget "shrewd", the Times is more circumspect, saying that the Budget "will clearly assist Labour's quest for a second term".

    "What it will mean for that fresh term of office is uncertain."

    Commentator Simon Jenkins is concerned by the lack of humility shown by the chancellor and the power he now wields, saying Mr Brown only speaks to the prime minister.

    He says: "The control of the public sector invested in Mr Brown is awesome.

    "There is nothing to counter it. Its accountability to Parliament is ceremonial."

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    Daily Telegraph

    The Daily Telegraph has harsh words for what it says is a Budget borne out of the chancellor's conceit and the most "socialist" series of measures since Labour came to power.

    "The words 'nanny knows best' are written through this Budget like Blackpool through a stick of rock," its leaders says.

    The paper takes Mr Brown to task for failing to encourage people to make up their own minds on how to best use their own money.

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    The Independent

    In the Independent, Hamish McRae says that the chancellor's decision to pay back 12bn of the national debt "is not what the focus groups presumably advised but if is absolutely right for a country facing the inevitable strains imposed by an ageing population.

    "He deserves credit for sticking to his mantra of stability, stability, stability."

    With a headline declaring Mr Brown as "prudent, politically astute but a little disappointing", the newspaper's leader column describes the Budget as "cunningly artless" which was "over cautious" with too much of an eye on the opinion polls.

    "The NHS undoubtedly needs a great deal of extra money - but does it really need twice as much extra as education?"

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    Financial Times

    "Fortune has showered her bounty upon Gordon Brown," declares the Financial Times's leader column.

    "Yesterday he took credit for achieving a far bigger than expected Budget surplus and he used it to move effortlessly into a pre-election mode as a true Labour chancellor dedicated to social justice and public spending."

    But the leader column concludes that he has "written quite a big IOU against fortune's future favours."

    Martin Woolf, one of the newspaper's commentators, writes that "casualty wards have been chosen over car producers."

    Mr Brown's "commitment to fiscal loosening means that real interest rates will be consistently higher than they would otherwise be," he writes.

    "It is likely but not certain that this will also mean a higher real exchange rate and a still weakening manufacturing sector.

    "It does make early entry into European monetary union more unlikely."

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  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    John Kampfner reports
    Will Gordon Brown make last minute changes?
    The BBC's Carole Walker reports
    "He will keep one or two surprises up his sleeve"
    See also:

    22 Mar 00 | UK Politics
    22 Mar 00 | Health
    22 Mar 00 | Business
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