Gordon Brown’s retreat on the 10p rate is clearly a massive humiliation. Before he became Prime Minister, his supporters claimed he had two great qualities:
- First, he was a man of principle who had devoted his life to helping the poor, just as his father had done.
- Second, he was a great political strategist, constantly thinking three moves ahead of his opponents.
No one can make those claims now.
No consistent, principled supporter of the low paid would propose a tax increase targeted at the low paid.
No master strategist would have put himself in the position of trying to force this measure through the House of Commons three days before local elections.
How did this happen?
The most striking aspect of Gordon Brown’s behaviour throughout this episode has been the extraordinary state of denial. In March last year, in a hearing held by the Treasury Select Committee, Michael Fallon pressed the then Chancellor on the point that there would be 5.3 million households that lost out. In evasive and misleading evidence (so misleading, in fact, that the independent Statistics Commission chastised Gordon Brown for it – see here), the then Chancellor refused to accept the 5.3 million figure, even though his own official had confirmed it the previous day. ‘At the end of the day I do not think we will see the effects that you are saying’ he told the Committee.