Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles FIDUCIARY SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles FIDUCIARY SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY

Article excerpt

Tuesday Budget Day. We are on photocall, first in the canteen at the Treasury and then on the steps of No 11. Mr Brown forgets his money when filmed buying his coffee, and I have to lend him a flyer on the urgent demand of "Money! Money!" That should look good on the one o'clock news. At three, we all troop off to the House and take our seats.

Then Mr Brown gets up to speak. The delivery and the phraseology --"prudence with a purpose", "productivity through prosperity", "a job, not a Giro" is relentless, as is the deployment of statistics. Gradually, the booming voice convinces all about him that things could not be any different, that nature intended and demanded just such a Budget as this -- and no other.

The Tories sink lower and lower on their benches, and even our own people behind me are intimidated into silence. It is like an ant in a cornfield watching the onward march of a combine harvester. The machinery may be complex. But the intention is awesomely simple. Only when Mr Brown gets to the bit about how we are going to put trillions into health do our lot seem to liven up a bit. I suspect that many of them have been so convinced by his arguments for prudence that they're now suddenly worried about spending anything at all.

Mr Brown sits down and it's the Egg's turn. He's been sitting next to El Lippo taking urgent notes, with the barmy army rolling its eyes behind him. But you've got to hand it to him: he's good. Dealt a hand of twos and threes, he plays them with a ridiculous vigour, as though he hasn't noticed how hopeless it all is. It must be all that transcendental meditation he does. Sounding like one of those model planes or boats being raced across a park space, he manages to find the chinks and weaknesses in our position: the stealth taxes, the gap between claim and reality, all the myriad little lies of government, which -- once uttered -- can never be unuttered. …

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