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Last Updated: Monday, 5 December 2005, 18:35 GMT
Brown's baffling confession
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

It is not what Gordon Brown said, but it's what it sounded like to those of us who have trouble wrestling with a till receipt.

So that's 35 billion this year, then 31, 32, 34 and finally 35, an average over a five year period of 400 million extra year on year, every year, until 2010, then 55 million.

Gordon Brown

Double it, take away the number you first thought of, tell the Tories they are rubbish, and there you have it - the economy is doing just great.

On top of all that, there are more people in jobs than since the Norman invasion, inflation is bang on target, the golden rule continues to shine like a beacon to the rest of the world and growth is - oops!

In his best, gruff, how-could-you-have-ever-doubted-me mode, he reminded MPs it had been a very difficult period for the economy thanks to rocketing oil prices and other stuff that's nothing to do with him.

Things, presumably, he had not seen coming when he made his last forecasts in March's budget. Easily done.

In any case, thanks to his firm hand, unbending commitment to stability - oh, and ability to change the period and length of the economic cycle - Britain has done better than just about every other country on the planet.

Public spending

And there are more good things to come in the shape of affordable housing, help with pensioners' heating costs, job training and so on.

Oil companies, on the other hand, can start writing some pretty big cheques made payable to Her Majesty's Treasury. Still, who is going to feel sorry for oil companies?

Oil rig
Oil companies will pay more
As for the Tories, well words just can't do justice to exactly how dreadful they are - but he tried anyway.

And, specifically, he turned his attention to the man he clearly believes has won the leadership campaign, David Cameron.

The new Tory moderniser's demand for public spending below the level of growth would mean an end to the NHS and education as we know it today. And it's not even a new Tory idea.

And then up piped shadow chancellor George Osborne to follow the low subterranean rumble that is Gordon Brown.

What about that growth forecast then Gordon? You got it sensationally wrong, just as everyone and his dog was telling you at the time.

Tory attacks

He even got as close as he could to calling the chancellor a fibber for failing to tell voters before the election just what a tough year it was going to be for the economy.

George Osborne
Osborne talked of tractor production
"He was supposed to come to the house to deliver an accurate report on the state of the British economy.

"It sounded more like tractor production figures from the old Soviet Union".

As for Mr Brown's as yet unfulfilled ambitions, if he stays in 11 Downing Street much longer his reputation will be so shot to pieces he will never make it to No 10.

Probably just as well he said, mapping out the shape of future Tory attacks, because it is Mr Brown who is blocking all the good things the prime minister wants to do and which the Tories believe are pretty close to some of their own policies.

When the chancellor and his pal John Prescott stopped rocking with laughter, Mr Brown got slowly to his feet and waved around a bit of paper.

It was an article Mr Osborne had just written saying what a wonderful job Labour was doing for the economy and how useless the Tories had so far been.

You could almost hear the pop of a balloon being punctured. The pen truly is mightier.

After all this, the Liberal Democrats' Vince Cable stood little chance - even if the other parties' backbenchers were prepared to listen to him. Which they never do to any Lib Dem.

Why on earth couldn't the chancellor simply have come to the house and said he had got a few things a bit wrong.

I thought he had.


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