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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Brown stands to deliver
Chancellor Gordon Brown meeting pupils before his spending statement
Brown talked of "education, education, education"

It was pretty much the spending review everyone was expecting.

Lots more money for education, quite a bit more money for transport and housing, and some more money for defence, international development and tackling crime.

And there was the now traditional threat that the cash had to be allied to reform.

If schools, local education authorities and social services fail to do their bit they will be taken over by people who can.

Teacher and pupil
Schools should be winners
If the statement was familiar and, as a result rather unexciting, it is because it had pretty much all been leaked beforehand or previewed in the budget.

And most of the talk has been heard before - some of it two or three times over the past five years.

No rabbit

The chancellor even failed to do his usual trick of pulling a surprise rabbit out of his hat to offer nice, easy headlines.

That was deliberate. The message Mr Brown wants to get across from this spending review is simply "look at all the money". The secondary message, of course, is "look at me"

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown
Planning to deliver
He even nicked the prime minister's famous "education, education, education" slogan from the 1997 general election.

That brought a wistful smile from Mr Blair and a broader, more knowing grin from John Prescott.

They spotted the chancellor's unspoken words: "He (Blair) may have promised it - but it's me what's delivering it."

And that, of course, is the big test. We are years past the prime minister's famous "post euphoria, pre-delivery" stage of New Labour.

Getting better

We are now in the "well, where is it then?" stage which is threatening to turn into the "don't believe a word of it" phase.

And ministers know they are rapidly running out of time on that front.

Shadow Chancellor Michael Howard
Money not enough
It is no good simply showing voters a balance sheet full of mind-bendingly large numbers and hoping that will persuade them things are getting better. Things actually have to get better.

Parents and patients need to be grabbed by the first hand experience of improved schools and hospitals.

And it is clear that, having gambled once by raising taxes after pledging to do no such thing, the government is painfully aware that without these observed improvements, the game will be up.

Big gamble

Shadow chancellor Michael Howard unsurprisingly latched onto the apparent lack of delivery to accuse the government of having got it all fundamentally wrong.

Throwing money at public services while at the same time increasing bureaucracy and red tape is not the answer, he claimed.

And, attempting to put the clear blue water between the Tories and Labour, he insisted it is reform not money that will count.

Lastly, of course, this is the spending review that will be seen as having set the government on track for the next general election.

It will, incidentally, be the one that could make or break the chancellor's ambitions of replacing Tony Blair.

On both those fronts, it is a gamble. If it pays off both the government and Gordon Brown will be on course to realise their dreams.

Failure could easily spell the end for both of them.

The government's plans for future spending are published on 15 July

Key stories

At the sharp end



See also:

15 Jul 02 | UK Politics
10 Jul 02 | UK Politics
11 Jul 02 | UK Politics
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