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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 12:32 GMT
Sketch: Brown plays Santa
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

It is hard to miss the fact that Gordon Brown is undergoing a bit of a makeover which appears intended to ditch his dark, gloomy image before he becomes prime minister.

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown just can't stop smiling
The ever-present smile revealing startling white, allegedly "enhanced" teeth, the jovial demeanour at question time and the policy pronouncements in any area of government he fancies.

But turning into Father Christmas?

How else can one explain the latest proposal which will see the chancellor rewarding all the good boys and girls and punishing the bad?

Under the latest pre-prime ministerial proposal being planned by Mr Brown, law-abiding youngsters will be given vouchers worth up to 25 to spend on sports and leisure facilities.

The "youth opportunity cards" will be available to all 13 to 19-year-olds, entitling them to spend 12 a month in better-off areas and 25 in the most disadvantaged areas on local sporting and other facilities.

Cheerful Charlie

But, just like Santa, Brown has no intention of handing out presents to the naughty.

While I'm not sure financial incentive is a good reward, a bit of recognition wouldn't go amiss
Jamie Cole, Manchester, UK

"This is not a hand-out - if you don't behave you don't get it," he said, displaying a bit of the old Iron Chancellor we have all got used to.

But he seems to be genuinely enjoying his new role, loosening up from the solid, reliable, bank manager image which suited a man wanting voters' trust as chancellor.

The way things are going it seems we are likely to be getting much more of this cheerful chancellor... unless, of course, something happens to stop his apparently smooth transition into power.


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