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EDITIONS
Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 10:30 GMT
Time will tell, papers warn Brown
Ed Balls, treasury adviser, with Gordon Brown
Plenty of advice for the chancellor and adviser Ed Balls

They just couldn't resist it.

In the wake of Gordon Brown's pre-Budget report, the newspaper headline writers continued their obsession with dear old Prudence even after the chancellor stood her up for a change.

"Brown kisses goodbye to Prudence" declares the front page headline in the Independent.

The Daily Telegraph says Mr Brown was caught setting out on a colossal borrowing spree with someone who was certainly not Prudence.

The Daily Mail splashes Goodbye Prudence! across its front page.

And The Mirror goes for Dear Prudence as its main headline.

But beyond the front pages, most of the papers are agreed that the pre-Budget report signals testing times ahead for the chancellor.

Whiff

But some hold their fire - saying time will tell whether his gamble pays off.

The Independent's leader says, for instance, that it is a pivotal moment for the government.

It warns that if Labour loses its reputation for sound economic management and fails to improve public services, its legacy will be "some small wars won and a faint whiff of spin".

The Telegraph's editorial says the chancellor is paying the price of failing to take full account of problems in the UK economy which he could have addressed earlier.

But it acknowledges that Mr Brown has scope to borrow to get through what it calls a "rough patch".

It says the danger is if the economy hits real trouble - by which time, if the chancellor's ambitions to succeed Tony Blair prove fruitful it could be a case of "out of the frying pan and into the fire".

Gamble

The Times says Mr Brown had swapped his reputation as a lucky chancellor to be a tedious chancellor.

There were no rabbits leaping out of hats in his speech, it says - but adds that perhaps, after endless reviews and initiatives, it was time for a period of peace.

The Daily Mail says the chancellor got his sums wrong and has now taken a high-stakes gamble and set a time bomb ticking.

If the economy doesn't improve by 2004, the paper says he'll have to slash public spending or put up taxes.

According to the Guardian, Shadow Chancellor Michael Howard performed well in the Commons when he responded to the pre-Budget report.

Wounded

It was, says the paper, "the biggest spanking" Gordon Brown's had since becoming chancellor.

The paper's editorial says Mr Brown has put the "social revolution" on hold - and it warns of "grave dangers" ahead.

Philip Stephens in the Financial Times believes Mr Brown had something of the look of a wounded lion about him - but remains one of the bigger beasts in politics.

The paper's leading article says Mr Brown is right not to panic - but it warns that if his hopes about future growth prove elusive he will have to act swiftly to regain his reputation for prudence.

Writing in the Sun, the Tory spokesman on the economy, Michael Howard, suggests the Iron Chancellor is beginning to look rusty.

Test

But the paper's leader writer offers words of support for Mr Brown.

The paper says some of those on the Tory benches criticising extra borrowing have supported similar action by the Republicans in the US.

And it says the Conservatives did exactly the same thing while in power.

The difference is, says the paper, that Mr Brown is doing so against a background of a better managed economy.

The Mirror says the pre-Budget report has not "busted" the chancellor's reputation - but says he will now be tested like never before.

The Daily Express says Mr Brown led a "stampede" into debt as Britain "was unmasked as a nation of borrowers".


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