The day Brown lost the election

HISTORIANS will look back to June 29 2009 as the day Labour and Gordon Brown lost the next General Election.The Prime Minister's great relaunch, setting out his legislative programme to reinvigorate recession-hit Britain, stalled before lift off as he stubbornly refused to admit Labour will have to introduce cuts in public spending after the election to pay for the combination of the spendthrift years and the investment needs to rescue the economy from the recession.

Graham Dines

The day Brown lost the election

HISTORIANS will look back to June 29 2009 as the day Labour and Gordon Brown lost the next General Election.

The Prime Minister's great relaunch, setting out his legislative programme to reinvigorate recession-hit Britain, stalled before lift off as he stubbornly refused to admit Labour will have to introduce cuts in public spending after the election to pay for the combination of the spendthrift years and the investment needs to rescue the economy from the recession.


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David Cameron admits a Tory government that they will need to cutback on public services and that it will be painful. Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats agrees on the need for financial restraint.

But no such admission from Gordon Brown. He refuses to acknowledge what everyone knows is inevitable. And every time he says it, he loses a little bit more of his credibility.

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The relaunch went ahead after his stormtroopers, headed by Ed Balls, had leaked details of Brown's “I have a dream” of new policies on public services, jobs and housing.

Introducing the document Building Britain's Future, Brown told the Commons: “There is a real choice for our country: creating jobs or doing nothing. Driving forward growth or letting the recession take its course. We will not walk away from the British people in difficult times.”

But as he was sitting down in the Commons, and before David Cameron launched his stinging riposte, there was the first inkling of a devastating opinion survey by ComRes for The Independent.

As the need for spending curbs moved to the top of the political agenda, ComRes asked people which party they trusted most to decide where public spending cuts should be made: 31% said the Conservatives, 21% Labour and 14% the Liberal Democrats. Some 16% trusted no party, 10% said they didn't know and 7% named other parties.

Only 62% of people who regard themselves as natural Labour supporters said they trusted the party most to make the right spending cuts.

However, the poll does suggest that the public is impatient to hear Cameron's policies for the public services - a sign that he has not yet “sealed the deal” with the voters.

Building Britain's Future is a barely disguised first draft of Labour's election manifesto. But without admitting cuts will have to be made or how on earth the country can afford to maintain public services at their current level, Brown is open to Cameron's withering remark that it is “a package without a price tag.”

Cameron told MPs: “The Prime Minister is living in a dream world, in which investment is going up, spending is going up - when is someone going to tell him he has run out of money?”

On Wednesday, Brown added to his own woes by declaring there would be a “0%” rise in public spending in 2013-14 if Labour wins the next election. If that's not a cut, what is?

Admit it or not, some pet projects are unlikely to survive a post-election spending cull. Motorway building and the electrification of the rail network will be put on hold, replacement computer systems ditched, the national identity card looks an expensive luxury, and Britain's future role in the world will be scrutinised.

Defence cuts would hit the Royal Navy particularly hard. The Liberal Democrats want the replacement for the Trident missile system to be abandoned, effectively ending the UK's independent nuclear deterrent. That would mean the cancellation of four new submarines.

And a question mark may hang over the two giant aircraft carriers on order - HM Ships Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales. If they aren't built, that will be the end of the Fleet Air Arm - and the Royal Navy will be relegated to a few frigates, destroyers, and patrol craft.

`BEDBLOCKERS' FRUSTRATING TORY MODERNISERS

THE official retirement age in the UK is 65 - so why doesn't it apply to MPs?

This is another example of the widening gulf between the governed and the governors.

Any slight financial misdemeanour by members of the public ends in prosecution - but though there is an overwhelming prima facie case to answer by those MPs who have claimed mortgage tax relief for mortgages that don't exist, and for those who have been reimbursed for council tax bills in full when they were getting single occupancy relief, the law is moving slowly.

MPs can have three or four jobs when the rest of us would be sacked if we went moonlighting.

And MPs can decide to carry on well into their eighties if they wish, when everyone else has to struggle on pensions from 65 onwards.

In Suffolk, two MPs - Sir Michael Lord and John Gummer - will be more than 70 at the next election and assuming they are re-elected, will be pushing 75 next time around. Two more - Tim Yeo and Richard Spring - are hovering around the age when most people have retirement forced upon them.

One MP in Essex Sir Alan Haselhurst will be a few weeks shy of 73 at the election and Bob Russell will be 64.

Surely they are all approaching a time when age will weary them.

The collective noun for pensioner Tory MPs is bedblockers. Conservative Central Office would certainly not be unhappy if Sir Alan and Sir Michael called time at this election so that some of the bright young things on the party's gold list can inherit a safe seat.

Incidentally, while we're mentioning Mr Gummer . . .

One of his constituents - Antony Georgi, who lives at Knodishall near Saxmundham, - is incensed at the MP's claim for charging the taxpayers to eradicate an infestation of moles at his country house near Debenham.

If Mr Gummer can do this, why can't ordinary folk? To redress the situation, Mr Georgi is demanding that his MP sponsors a parliamentary Bill which would allow countryside dwellers to claim the cost incurred for getting rid of moles as an allowable expense against their income tax bill.

Six weeks after his letter, Mr Georgi is still waiting for a reply.

CAMPAIGNING has started in the Norwich North by-election. But here's a word of caution for the Tory candidate Chloe Smith, who looks likely to gain the seat from Labour.

Extensive boundary changes at the next election will add many more probable Labour voters to the constituency. Ms Smith's tenure may be short indeed.

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