Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brown on the Back Foot over Tax Cut 'Con Trick'; Chancellor Defends 2p Cut as Tories Say Many Are Worse Off

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brown on the Back Foot over Tax Cut 'Con Trick'; Chancellor Defends 2p Cut as Tories Say Many Are Worse Off

Article excerpt


A CHASTENED Gordon Brown today gave his Budget a hasty makeover, calling it a major tax reform rather than a taxcutting bonanza.

The Chancellor was stung into defending the package after Tory charges that the central 2p cut in the basic rate was a con trick.

Touring the media studios, he repeatedly stressed that he had "tried his best" to put extra money in the pockets of as many people as possible.

His allies were also jolted this morning by headlines describing the Budget as a "con" and a politically driven job application to be Prime Minister.

Only the Labour-backing Sun and Mirror gave his tax cut unqualified approval.

The 2p cut is outweighed for many by the scrapping of the 10p band, which puts low income people onto the 20p band at a stroke. Families and many single people are compensated by tax credits and benefits in a bafflingly complex system that some critics characterised as a massive expansion of the welfare state and benefits dependency.

Mr Brown stressed that his aim had not been to slash taxes but to simplify and reform the tax system. He pointed out that his were the most far-reaching changes, affecting 30 million people, in any Budget for 20 years since Nigel Lawson brought in separate taxation of married couples.

He admitted at one stage that the impact on single people was unclear.

"Sometimes you don't actually know what happens. I have tried my best to make sure that when we are making a big tax reform like this, we take care of the needs of every single group in society."

Mr Brown also made clear today that he feels ready to be Prime Minister. He said: "I'm ready to rise to the challenge" of becoming Prime Minister. But in a clear bid to soften his image, he also stressed his human side and credentials as a father.

"I hope I'm liked but obviously that is for other people to judge. I started as Chancellor, where you are going to say 'no' to people. Obviously it helps if people admire what you are doing, and it helps if people respect you and it helps if people like you," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I'm a family man with two young children trying to do the best by them.

I do understand the challenges that families all over the country face with young children."

Mr Brown's Tory shadow George Osborne went on the attack as he opened the weeklong Commons debate this afternoon. He said the Budget had been dishonestly spun because it made a fifth of households worse off and questioned Mr Brown's fitness to be Prime Minister.

Mr Osborne said nobody listening to the Budget would have believed their taxes might go up but said that was the reality for thousands of low income workers. "Their income tax bill went up yesterday and I don't think listening to that Budget they would have thought that," he said. …

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