Gordon Brown steps up to the dispatch box today for his eleventh Budget as Chancellor and very probably his last. So assuming he can make himself heard above the taunts, likely to be made all the worse by Lord Turnbull's devastating character assasination in the Financial Times yesterday, what might we expect from the old Stalinist?
Bound by the straitjacket of his own fiscal rules, the Chancellor's room for manoeuvre in the public finances is virtually nil. Yet he'll want to bow out on an upbeat note, so we can be sure this will be a grandstanding event of some sort. The Treasury spin is that it will be a business-friendly Budget, which would be welcome but in my view not terribly likely once all today's measures are taken in the round.
A 3 percentage point cut in the rate of corporation tax? George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, proposed just such a cut this week in an attempt to shoot the Chancellor's fox. So it's possible, and certainly, the rate of corporation tax is fast becoming uncompetitive in the global economy. But there aren't many votes in cutting business taxes, and it is not clear where he'd find the money, so I would-n't bet on it.
Instead, the Chancellor will focus most of his attention on education, a cause much closer to the common man's heart. When Tony Blair came to power, he said his three priorities were "Education, Education and Education". Ten years later, the result is one of only quite limited progress and on some fronts abject failure. …