Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Speaker's Slip Puts Even Bigger Smile on Gordon's Face

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Speaker's Slip Puts Even Bigger Smile on Gordon's Face

Article excerpt

Moving A SMILING Gordon Brown was prematurely anointed "Prime Minister" by the Speaker of the House of Commons today as he prepared to launch his own bid for Number 10.

Speaker Michael Martin prompted cheers and laughter from Labour MPs as he inadvertently promoted the Chancellor during Treasury questions in Parliament.

Mr Brown underlined his confidence by joking that Tony Blair's departure was yet another job "vacancy" to add to the millions created by Labour's strong economic record.

But as the City braced itself for a rise in interest rates - up 0.25 per cent - the Tories tried to wipe the smile off Mr Brown's face with a strong attack on his reign at Number 11. Shadow chancellor George Osborne said that Mr Brown had been "in hiding" for a week since Labour's drubbing in the local, Scottish and Welsh elections.

Mr Osborne's tactics succeeded in riling the Chancellor who, later during the questions, was interrupted by the Speaker because he appeared to have strayed off his subject to attack Mr Osborne.

To roars from MPs, Mr Martin said in an apparent slip: "I must say gently to the Prime Minister..." After the laughter died down, Mr Martin joked: "I'm getting into practice for the Wednesday." Mr Brown will hit the ground running tomorrow with five events setting out his vision and priorities. They include a breakfast meeting with Labour activists, constituency visits and a priministerial-style press conference.

At the weekend he will embark on six weeks of meetings.

The first official hustings in the leadership contest takes place on 20 May, and even if Mr Brown faces no challenge, he will use it to set out his plans.

With more than 200 MPs backing him, the Chancelloris keen to show he has the overwhelming backing from all sections of the party and union movement.

Supporters claim that tomorrow's events will try to recapture the "excitement" of 2 May 1997 when Mr Blair entered Downing Street.

Today, Mr Osborne tried to exploit tensions between the two men, by stating that "this must be one of the happiest days of your political career".

He attacked Mr Brown's record on tax credits and asked whether the Labour election disaster was due to the Chancellor's economic policies or "the unique leadership of the Prime Minister?" Mr Brown said the Government had prevented a return to the "stop-go" economics of the Eighties and early Nineties by making the Bank of England independent.

The Tory No Turning Back group wanted [pounds sterling]35 billion to [pounds sterling]50 billion of tax cuts and that was the "dividing line" between the two parties, he said.

The Chancellor paid generous tribute to Mr Blair at this morning's Cabinet meeting and was due to deliver similar praise in a short speech later today..

Moving A SMILING Gordon Brown was prematurely anointed "Prime Minister" by the Speaker of the House of Commons today as he prepared to launch his own bid for Number 10. …

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