Gordon's tonic for the Queen Mum

EADT Political Editor GRAHAM DINES casts a sardonic eye over the motives behind the Chancellor's Budget.WITH Prince Charles about to marry Camilla Parker-Bowles, it would not have been the cleverest idea to mention Diana's name in his re-election Budget.

EADT Political Editor GRAHAM DINES casts a sardonic eye over the motives behind the Chancellor's Budget.

WITH Prince Charles about to marry Camilla Parker-Bowles, it would not have been the cleverest idea to mention Diana's name in his re-election Budget.

So Gordon Brown came up with the next best plan – drag in the dear Queen Mum.

Thus for the first time in many a long year, a member of the Royal Family got the Treasury accolade when the Chancellor solemnly announced in his lunchtime date with the Commons: "It is right to honour the life and service of the Queen Mother with a permanent memorial to her."


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What the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother would have made of being included in a give-away Budget designed to get Labour re-elected can only be speculation.

Perhaps the best that can be said about this shameless tactic is that Mr Brown and the Queen Mum were both Scots, with the Chancellor representing a Kingdom of Fife constituency but a few miles from the Castle of Mey where she was born.

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And as one of the 20th century's most famous pensioners, she was a fitting choice to characterise a Budget that – not before time – showered money on the so-called "grey" voters.

On the scale of things, a £2million public monument to the Queen Mother to be financed by proceeds from a commemorative coin to mark the Queen's 80th birthday next year is small beer.

But it is an iconic moment in Labour's battle to get re-elected. According to reports, the monument could be located at the existing statue of the Queen Mother's husband George VI on The Mall, overlooking Horse Guards Parade, in London.

His statue would be transformed into a joint monument with the depiction of the Queen Mother on the base of the statue and the addition of a new fountain.

That aside Gordon Brown's Budget was meant to make us all feel good – especially if we have children, tax-free ISA saving schemes or are approaching the twilight of our austere lives.

Pensioners are being kept happy by the offer of a one-off £200 payment to reduce their council tax bills – the Tories have promised up to £500 each year – and the prospect of free nationwide bus travel, that is if they can find a bus in some of the more remote parts of Essex and Suffolk.

No wonder Labour MPs – those with marginal seats were selected to pack the benches behind the Chancellor so they could bask in his give-away glow – who could scarce contain their glee throughout the 50-minute speech. They erupted in utter ecstasy when he sat down, screaming for him to go on.

Mr Brown gave short shrift to the world's leading fiscal experts, who have accused him of having a black hole in the economy.

Critics of his Government's public spending plans were wrong, he told the serried ranks of MPs packed into the Commons. And, of course, those who darkly predicted recession were wrong, too.

Many believe that should Tony Blair be re-elected, he will rid himself of his troublesome, brooding Chancellor in order to appoint a more compliant politician who will pave the way for UK entry into the single European currency.

If this was his last such performance, Gordon Brown rattled through his speech, but a panache that was a coded signal to the Labour Party: "If we win again, it's all down to me."

There was good news on stamp duty, inheritance tax, child care, maternity leave and sport.

And in a raid on one of the Conservative Party's pet policies, he launched an attack on European Union red tape and promised to slash the number of quangos.

At first sight, the Conservatives may well be bruised by the Chancellor's naked appeal to the elderly.

It is the Saga Magazine generation who will be the most determined to vote in this year's election. They are the ones worried about council tax and the falling value of their stocks and shares.

Will giving them free bus passes and a rebate on their property tax make them less to go back to the Tories?

It is a calculated risk. A real vote-grabbing Chancellor would have stood politics on its head and opted for the Liberal Democrats' local income tax, which would exempt most pensioners from underwriting their local councils.

Instead, he gave us the Queen Mother's statue and the promise that OAPs can have a free ride on a double decker to go and visit it.

graham.dines@eadt.co.uk

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