Education, education, education…now why does that sound so familiar?
Gordon Brown is to put schools at the heart of what will be his 10th and quite possibly last pre-Budget report as Chancellor.
Talk about deja vu.
Remember all those years ago how a fresh-faced, promising young politician named Tony Blair promised to put education at the core of everything he was planning to do as Prime Minister?
A decade on, his right-hand man has now singled out education as the priority for all government policy (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/default.stm).
But it has a dangerously hollow ring to it because of the abject failure of his Downing Street neighbour to deliver on his own “education, education, education” promise.
Gordon Brown was a shoe-in as successor to Tony Blair for so many years and yet in the last 18 months he has been finding it harder and harder to shake off the illusion of being “yesterday’s man”. Making such a bold pronouncement on education, effectively aping what his soon-to-depart boss used to represent, will do little to help Brown overcome this negative and damaging image problem.
The Blair-Brown axis has been hugely important to the successes of Labour. However, sticking so close to the Prime Minister has begun to taint the Chancellor. It could be one of life’s cruel ironies that the loyalty Brown has displayed towards Blair could be the root cause of his failure to succeed him as Prime Minister.
The longer Blair has stayed at No.10, the more the feeling has grown that a completely fresh approach is required. Gordon Brown, at one time, represented just such an approach but these days he is beginning to look more of the “same old, same old” and voters wanting a change could well be inclined to look elsewhere. Indeed, Labour itself may come to the realisation that Brown no longer fits the bill and elect someone else to succeed Blair as party leader.
Elsewhere in the pre-Budget report, transport and the environment will be key areas. Higher fuel duty for both motorists and air passengers will form part of the so-called “green taxes” we can now expect to become a feature of government, whichever party wins the next General Election.
Carbon trading is also likely to be central to future economic policy as the battle against climate change begins in earnest.
Such proposals represent the future route any Government is likely to take. However, with his own brand of “education, education, education” I cannot help but think Gordon Brown has missed his chance at the ultimate prize.