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Last Updated: Monday, 21 June, 2004, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Gordon Brown's performance: Miracle or mirage?
Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown has become the longest continually serving Chancellor of the Exchequer in 180 years, overtaking David Lloyd George's record of seven years and 43 days between 1908-1915.

He has received widespread praise for his management of the UK economy including low inflation, low unemployment and investment in public services.

But his detractors argue that the economy's success is built on foundations of privatisation and deregulation introduced by former governments.

Mr Brown has endured descriptions from being a "tremendous asset to the country" to being "psychologically flawed".

What do you think of Gordon Brown's achievements? Is his performance a miracle or a mirage? Send us your views.


This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

We have the lowest unemployment in history - unlike the rest of Europe.Interest rates are still low and people are not losing their houses like before.More money has gone to the productive working poor rather than the non working.On the downside there are too many unnecessary civil servant jobs and not enough manufacturing businesses.Things are more miracle than mirage-but as usual people still moan.
Rob, UK

On the surface Brown appears to be a good chancellor. However, too much is based on borrowing, so the question of his performance may be more pertinent in a few years when the long-term effects become apparent.
Paul Beckett, London, UK

I wonder if George from Durham actually runs a small business, like I do. Brown has lowered Corporation Tax levels, introduced significant Research and Development tax breaks, reduced the burden around the production of accounts, and kept interest rates low. He also avoided the recent economic slowdown that afflicted the rest of Europe ant the USA. The recent rise in Employers National Insurance was not altogether welcome, but it's a small price compared to the huge benefits he's delivered to businesses like mine.
John, England

Gordon Brown inherited a flourishing economy from the Tories, and then proceeded to stick to the spending plans they had already set out. Then he ran out of Tory ideas and had to come up with some of his own, with the result that public spending is soaring beyond control and the whole economy is teetering on a mountain of consumer debt. Soon it will all come tumbling down - but I think Gordon is hoping to be PM by then so he can blame it all on someone else. Mirage? I should say so.
Laura, UK

Miracle. Provided the country with stability, low unemployment, the removal of Interest Rates from political interference, and importantly the lack of political dogma that may have resulted in changing everything that the Tories had done, just because he could.
Philip, UK

How can someone who creates tens of thousands of unnecessary public sector jobs, wastes billions in taxpayers money on them and then vows to sack tens of thousands of them be referred to as "a tremendous asset to the country"?
Philip Ormerod, London, UK

It is exactly Brown's economic competence that frustrates the hell out of his opponents
Steve, UK
The real point is this: it doesn't matter what Gordon Brown inherited from the previous government, many, many people expected Labour to get into difficulties with the economy yet again very quickly, thus allowing the Tories to swan back into office in a few short years. This simply has not happened, but I would still hesitate to call it a miracle and would prefer exemplary competence. Regardless of what you call it though, it is exactly Brown's economic competence that frustrates the hell out of his opponents.
Steve, UK

Gordon Brown has done half his job well. The half he got the Bank of England to do for him! Unfortunately the part he has done himself is a real mess, destroying savings and encouraging debt, both personal and government. God forbid he ever becomes PM!
James SG, London, England.

I recently plugged some numbers into the Tax Credit Website and found that Labour have managed stealth redistribution of wealth. A family with 3 children and an income of 20k get a whopping 3.5k back in tax credits! Clever huh?
Tim, UK

He did well at first because he inherited a strong economy
Alex Swanson, Milton Keynes, UK
He did well at first because he inherited a strong economy (made strong through Conservative reforms he opposed)and followed Conservative plans for two years. Then he reverted to socialist type and went on a tax/borrow/spend splurge. We know from experience what happens: a temporary boost, which we are now experiencing, followed by hangover, due any time now.br />Alex Swanson, Milton Keynes, UK

Gordon Brown is in my judgement the most brilliant Chancellor of the Exchequer this country has ever had and will ever have again. He is a pure genius in his job and in my opinion, his economic policies were mainly responsible for Labour's victory in the last election. His achievements are neither miracle nor mirage but simple mathematical equations that fit into right places if you apply them correctly and that is precisely he has done since he took the office.
Saqib Khan, UK

Low interest rates have allowed people to boost their income through easy credit to offset the huge increases in taxes Gordon Brown has inflicted on us (remember he scrapped MIRAS and the married man's tax allowance). I don't think this chancellor has done anything to help the average working person except get them into debt.
Steve, Surrey, UK

I think he is the best chancellor for the best government. I think he should keep his job, and if what the tabloids say are true, stop trying to steal the job of the Prime Minister. Stick at what you do best!
Brendan Chilton, Great Britain

To take money from pensioners to fund a bloated and overpaid public sector is a disgrace
Andy Parks, Bedford
The only good thing Gordon Brown has done is to give the bank of England the power to set interest rates relative to a target for inflation. This is hardly rocket science and should have been done years ago. The rest of his meddling is a disaster which will not be fully appreciated for another ten years or so. The damage that he has done to the future pensions of honest hardworking people in the private sector is irreparable. To take money from pensioners to fund a bloated and overpaid public sector is a disgrace. Time will show this man to have been incompetent and beguiled by his own sense of cleverness.
Andy Parks, Bedford

When he took over we had fully funded pensions, and people were busy saving for their old age in PEP's. In one stroke he abolished tax relief on pensions and scrapped PEP's. We now have pensions funds going down all over the place (and the tax was the straw that broke the camel's back, not the stock market fall which they have all weathered before) and savings are now at an all time low. What's the point of saving when even ISA's are taxed, and there are so many means-tested benefits on offer if you haven't saved for old age? Well done, Gordon. At least you've made sure that your generous pension will still be available.
Malcolm, England

It is a miracle for Blair that Brown has managed to keep the pound so strong for so long in order to prevent a referendum on the single currency and therefore prevent defeat for the government.
David Howe, Chelmsford UK

Mr. Brown got to be very very careful looking at the world economic situation and the results of invasion of Iraq by US. I hope he exercises great care in announcing the budget for us. The economic situation of the world is going to be worse than it was in 1992.
Mohammad Akram, Ilford

His first moves as Chancellor were mould-breaking
Vibhaker Baxi, London, UK
Not only his first moves as Chancellor were mould-breaking (re: Bank of England) but then he used the buoyant economic period to build up a substantial surplus. When the rest of the world faced economic slowdown he used his surplus to invest in the public sector which has kept UK economy in relatively great shape. Even though we are now back in fiscal deficit (good old Keynesian remedy for downturns) it is manageable, interest rates are low and rising growth will help recoup fiscal position as long as rate environment is well managed. I do not think it is a miracle or a mirage - it is solid, substantial and very cleverly managed! Albeit luck may have been on his side and there are questions about how well the public funds have been spent but that is beyond the Chancellor's immediate remit.
Vibhaker Baxi, London, UK

A disaster. Anyone who works in parts of the economy which has to compete internationally knows he has crippled our ability to compete and has kept the economy afloat by borrowing (which will have to be repaid one day). Does anyone seriously believe the unemployment figures - how come I know so many people with electronics degrees who are unemployed?
HJ, Wokingham, UK

Bit confused here. The Bank of England seems to be running the economy, which leaves Mr Brown responsible for the budget. Indirect taxation in the UK seems much higher than in the rest of Europe, which kind of negates the low levels of direct taxation. The budget deficit seems to be increasing. Seems like a mirage rather than a miracle.
Paul, Belgium

Brown took over an economy that was flourishing. He has run up millions of pounds of debt that won't show through for another three to five years, he may well be out of office by then with the country deep in debt. Then he will blame the next government for problems they inherit from Brown.
Lester Stenner, Weston Super Mare, UK

The growth of 93-97 was based on a weak pound
PM, Basildon, UK

Definitely miracle. The growth of 93-97 was based on a weak pound. Everything Brown has achieved has been in the face of a high exchange rate. With regards to government debt, both Thatcher and Major doubled it when they were in office. In contrast Brown has invested in the public sector, redistributed income and reduced poverty while still keeping the PSBR under control.
PM, Basildon, UK

I have a fairly good job and a career but I'm skint with nothing to show for it. I don't drink, don't smoke. What does that tell you?
Gavin, Cardiff, Wales

If stealing 5bn a year from our pensions, increasing taxes of all kinds at will, and being a senior representative of the most devious and deceitful government in living memory is a measure of success, then Gordon Brown is the most successful Chancellor of all time.
Neil Slinn, Northampton

A good chancellor would never let the housing boom spiral out of control.
M Kool, UK

Gordon Brown has definitely delivered. He has produced the longest period of economic stability in history.
Adam Johns, Cardiff, UK

I think he is doing well. It's a difficult job to balance the books, especially with an outrageously expensive (and unnecessary) war in Iraq. Plus, he seems to be a likeable person which makes a change from other politicians.
Alex Keel, London

Is there a legal way of prosecuting this man for theft and incompetence as well as deceit? I can't afford to move due to stamp duty and my pension has closed down due to his tax. Still, he has a nice juicy pension and he can vote for his own pay rises too. While the rest of us pay for rubbish. Democracy?
Mark Walkling,

Gordon Brown inherited today's buoyant economy from the last Conservative government
Ed H, UK
Please do not forget that Gordon Brown inherited today's buoyant economy from the last Conservative government. Gordon's achievements to date are based largely around successfully robbing the middle classes in everyway he can through taxation and the of raiding pension funds. Let us hope that this man never gets his hands on the Premiership, that will be one miracle worth hoping for!
Ed H, UK

The US economy has an interest rate of 1% as it's been dying on its feet. We've just raised our interest rates to 4.5% because there's a chance of overheating. Our strong economy is apparent just by this one simple indication.
Tony, UK

What about all the gold reserves that he sold off to prop up the euro. We have the biggest trade deficit since records began. More taxes. You can not trust the man or his government.
Terry Simons, derby

Thanks, Gordon. A mugger couldn't have done it better
Clive, Cardiff, UK
I was prudently saving for retirement with a BT Employee Share save scheme for a number of years. Suddenly, Mr. Brown took half a billion in windfall tax then billions in 3G licences. The company was almost bankrupted, the directors got golden handshakes, the chancellor got fiscally prudent kudos and I got an 80% drop in my retirement savings. Thanks, Gordon. A mugger couldn't have done it better.
Clive, Cardiff, UK

The man has achieved nothing. We had a massive cash surplus, which he has plunged into a deficit, we are a country with MASSIVE debt. He's done nothing to help first time buyers, and anyone who knows a little about economics knows that this man doesn't understand even the most basic of principles! No miracle, not even a very bright mirage, just a man in a Man In Waiting job.
Jo, London, UK

I do enjoy reading all the comments about how good the economy was under the Tories. As someone who struggled for 10 years to clear 30,000 of negative equity I know from first hand just what Tory management of the economy cost me.
Lee, Lewes

How many other chancellors have kept growth going for so long?
Alan P, London, UK
What a bunch of whingers you are. Even with non-stop economic growth, a massive increase in the number of millionaires and a situation where employers find it difficult to find any decent staff because they already have jobs, you want to moan. High taxes!! Get a grip, we have the lowest in Europe. Short term - how many other chancellors have kept growth going for so long?
Alan P, London, UK

Definitely more mirage than miracle. Brown has benefited from coming into office as the economy rose out of the recession of the early nineties. He's been fortunate to ride the crest of wave by basically sticking to the previous government's policies and encouraging conspicuous consumption at the expense of saving. The impact of his enormous stealth tax take has not yet been felt because of the rising economy - but it will (as it must in the capitalist system), then he won't be looking quite so clever!!
Bob H, Glasgow, UK

A disaster. Anyone who works in parts of the economy which has to compete internationally knows he has crippled our ability to compete and has kept the economy afloat by borrowing (which will have to be repaid one day). Does anyone seriously believe the unemployment figures - how come I know so many people with electronics degrees who are unemployed?
HJ, Wokingham, UK

He ought to be remembered as the luckiest chancellor. Definitely a mirage, he should be remembered for the pension tax credit raid that laid the roots for the present problems, and why mess up PEP and TESSA with the more complicated ISA other than jealousy that someone else put in place something that worked and was popular. Heaven help us if he ever becomes PM.
Glenn, Chelmsford, Essex

He may have benefited from the economic situation but he's spent the money wisely: on minimum wage and tax credits which has transformed life for low earners and those trapped on benefits because they couldn't afford to work. The Tories would have carried on giving it to the rich.
Steve M, Exeter, UK

The master of stealth taxes
John Stephenson, Bolton, Lancs., UK
The master of stealth taxes. Don't forget that by fiddling with Advance Corporation Tax, he now plunders pension funds to the tune of 5 billion a year. When he first introduced the change he devalued shares in British companies by around 15 to 20%, because of their now lower performance compared to shares worldwide. Shares in these companies were also a large part of the above funds. Pension crisis? I think I know who's had a big hand in it!
John Stephenson, Bolton, Lancs., UK

He is also the Chancellor that has effectively crippled the pension industry and in all likelihood condemned most of us to having to work way past the normal retirement age.
Colin Wheeler, Ashley Green, England

He has seen unemployment fall, and done so without having to alter the method calculation in the manner of the previous government. Overseen a global slowdown and ensured this country avoided a recession. Mr Brown can rightly be pleased with his time, shame he hasn't done something about the housing market.
Manoj Lukhman, Ilford, Essex

Almost every other democracy in the civilised world is attempting to reduce not enlarge the role of the state
John, Cheshire
History will remember Gordon Brown that is for sure - as the traditional Labour Chancellor who, even in the 21st century, still believed that socially engineered tax and spend policies had value when almost every other democracy in the civilised world was attempting to reduce not enlarge the role of the state.
John, Cheshire

Chancellor Brown inherited a fairly stable economy. However, his decisions to sell off portions of our gold reserves to prop-up that ring-pull known as the Euro may yet come back to bite him. The statements that he has presided over low unemployment, low inflation are questionable. With regards inflation, it is low simply because pretty much everything the government gets a slice of isn't included in the calculation. And we best not get started on the numerous new taxes that have been implemented since they came to power. I know I am worse off because of this government and I don't see any real improvement in public services either.
Geoff Hirst, Scotland

He kept to Tory spending plans for the most part of his Chancellor-ship. Well done Gordon take the praise!
Phil, Manchester

I say more mirage than miracle
Dan, Yateley, UK
The primary mechanism for controlling inflation is interest rates, and one of Brown's first actions as Chancellor was to devolve responsibility for this to the Bank of England monetary policy committee. Since then, he has been happy to claim credit for the economic growth that low rates have given, but presumably will absolve himself of responsibility when they continue their recent rising trend. As for unemployment, his achievements look impressive until you scratch the surface. A record 2.5 million on incapacity benefit (and conveniently not included in the official unemployment figures), and nearly 350,000 new public sector jobs created in the past 7 years. I say more mirage than miracle.
Dan, Yateley, UK

Mr Brown has allowed the British public to sit on their own little private financial time bombs that are set to go off within a few years. With almost everyone living on borrowed money to make ends meet and pay his high taxes, doesn't in truth, give Mr Brown anything to smile about.
George Williams, Manchester, England

He's presided over the massive expansion of a wasteful, parasitic public sector to the tune of 650,000 jobs. I was in the public sector for 15 months before I could no longer accept the waste, inefficiency and sheer pointlessness of it all. It's Labour's way of ensuring they do well in the next election by getting the votes of public sector workers. Gordon Brown forced my family and I to move abroad, because we just couldn't afford a decent lifestyle in expensive, over-taxed Britain.
Anthony Metcalf, Dubai

The bubble will burst and we will be paying for it for a long time
Chris, Bradford
Gordon inherited the economy's success and has kept it going through short term means. The bubble will burst and we will be paying for it for a long time, but by then he will not be Chancellor and so can blame it on someone else. Typical really.
Chris, Bradford

I think he's a good chancellor but I think we'd all prefer to see more direct taxation than all the indirect stuff that Labour favour. It's all still about the perception of being better off rather than the reality. Council tax and VAT are dated and we should be adopting the path of increased income tax so we can clearly equate how much we're paying for healthcare, schools etc.
Liz, UK

Gordon Brown was gifted an economy that was in a decent shape, he took the mobile phone companies for vast 3G licence fees and imposed huge windfall taxes on the newly privatised utilities. He then introduced over 60 stealth taxes and despite all this, government borrowing is still on the increase. His treatment of small businesses in particular is nothing short of disgraceful. In the long term, Brown's 'achievements' will have a devastating effect on the UK economy.
George, Durham, UK

The economy has never been in such good condition for so long under the control of any other chancellor
Sebastian, Oxford, England
At the end of the day, the economy has never been in such good condition for so long under the control of any other chancellor. This cannot be just coincidence. He is a great chancellor. I hope that his prime ministerial ambitions do not sway him from the post at which he has shown so much talent.
Sebastian, Oxford, England

Brown has singularly managed to increase the tax take by a phenomenal margin whilst fooling the PAYE paying public that he has not. An incredible achievement!
Don Hughes, Basingstoke, UK

What has Brown achieved? The highest peacetime level of taxation in British history. While he has been exceptionally lucky - the first chancellor in modern times to inherit an economy on the upswing - and has had an exceptionally good press, he has nevertheless taken old Labour, tax and spend policies to levels his predecessors could only have dreamed of. And in return for the obscenely high rate of taxes we pay we have seen no significant progress of reform of public services. Brown's self-satisfied approach to the NHS - pouring in huge sounding sums of money - is like someone giving whiskey to an alcoholic and then pointing out how happy he looks.
Chris Davenport, Stockport, UK




SEE ALSO:
Profile: UK Chancellor Gordon Brown
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Head to head - Gordon Brown
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Budget or bust? Test your skills
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