Which way was Gordon Brown looking last spring? I knew a year ago that the smart money was getting out of banking shares. A commentator on one financial messageboard described Northern Rock as “slipperier than a bucket of eels” because of its questionable business model and socially irresponsible lending practices. (Back then, the term “credit crunch” was not in widespread use, but there were warnings of a thing called “payment shock.” This referred to difficulties for overstretched borrowers faced with an abrupt hike in interest rates.) Yet Northern Rock’s problems seemed to catch the Government itself by surprise, later on in 2007.
Also last spring, Brown appeared to be living for the political moment when he announced his Budget, the consequences of which are only just taking effect. What was he thinking: that by spring 2008 we’d all have forgotten about his decision to abolish the 10p tax band? That a single person with no children, earning less than £18,500 would not miss that £232 per year?
I know people personally who have been dreading the arrival of these changes. The Lib Dems responded straight away that the tax changes would lead to the poor subsidising the rich. But the current outcry at the abolition of the 10p rate has still left the Government blinking in surprise, and Alistair Darling scrambling around, looking for some sort of patch for the problem.
A very small child once explained to me that there are two types of “Sorry”: the first means, “I don’t like being told off” and the second, more genuine one, means, “I don’t like what I did.”
Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling obviously don’t like being “told off” by members of their own Government, the media and the general public, but are still unrepentant. It seems that they liked what they did, but, like very small children, did not think ahead.
They’re left gazing skyward, blaming events outside their control.