Plenty of electronic text will be clogging up the web in analyzing Gordon Brown's last budget. You can tell he's got his eyes set on being prime minister, and has taken all that 'dour old Chancellor' stuff to heart, as he even started us off with a couple of light-hearted jokes. Well, I say jokes - judge for yourselves. First off, he announced that in the last two centuries, only one other chancellor had delivered 11 budgets, and then went on to deliver a 12th., when he served as both chancellor and prime minister - that was William Gladstone. Gordon laughed as he said this, but did we detect a certain wistfulness? And how modest he was to compare himself with one of the giants of 19th. century politics.
The comparison might be better than anyone thinks - Gladstone was a serious minded, immensely weighty politician who took himself very seriously and was a man of considerable inner faith - Queen Victoria didn't get on with him because, she claimed, he would preach at her all the time. His best known Tory opponent was the debonair, witty, amusing, modernising Tory politician Benjamin Disraeli, the man who introduced the phrase 'One Nation' into the political lexicon, but was also regarded as being, perhaps, a little superficial; a little committed to style over substance?
His other joke was to call the civil servants 'comrades' - a reference to Lord Turnbull's criticism yesterday of Brown's 'Stalinist' approach. Gordon laughed again - but apparently was 'incandescant' yesterday!
So - two historical comparisons to muse - which will it be???
Oh, and as to the budget - that 2p off income tax was a nice touch, and theatrically delivered, almost catching David Cameron off guard - but a pity it had all been reclaimed earlier in the budget. The BBC's Nick Robinson described this as a 'revenue neutral' budget!