Thursday, March 23, 2006

Meaningless Publicity Stunts

That's all that I can see that's worthy of comment on yesterday's Budget. For all the TV time spent on it, the common line of analysis is that "it hasn't changed much" - Anatole Kaletsky going so far as to say that it changes nothing.

There are, however, many "eye-catching initiatives". Project Gordon - the utilisation of Alastair Campbell and chums to try and make Brown more appealing to the electorate - must be going into overdrive. The "Schools Olympics", to be held every year until 2012, seems to be a perfect example of this. Is that really what our Chancellor should be concentrating his efforts on?

I'm also interested by the promise of 250 extra after-school clubs to be created. It certainly seemed to hit the right buttons of the Sky News viewers that were interviewed. Yet if money should be made available for these clubs, surely they should be available in every school? How many secondary schools are there in England and Wales?

Meanwhile, Dayorama shows that the promise on the 0% vehicle tax is a load of bunkum designed to get nice environmentalist headlines (of course, environmental credentials are stretched a little when petrol duty is frozen). Many other promises seem to have very little detail attached to them - little more than vague aspirations that sound nice yet provide negligible achievement.

This shouldn't be too surprising. Gordon Brown has two days every year when he gets to make the headlines - Budget Day, and his speech to the Labour Party conference. And given that every year, Blair manages to thoroughly out-do him the day after, Budget Day is his one big chance to shine. Everyone now knows that Blair's days are numbered. I do not think his term will end too shortly, but Brown's time will come within the next two years - and he has to have a vision of Britain to contend with Cameron's portrayal of him as a dinosaur. Hence the continuous statements of Brown on matters that do not directly fall within the remit of the Treasury. Hence the inclusion of lots of statements yesterday that mean little, but sound great and create the right impression.

I think the backbench rebels are going to be disappointed when Blair goes. Gordon Brown, at the moment, is operating straight out of the New Labour textbook.