Gordon Brown’s 11th and final Budget as Chancellor tomorrow is being trumpeted as a test of the environmental credentials of the two men who would be Prime Minister.
Mr Brown’s speech tomorrow will be followed by the response of Conservative leader David Cameron and every single word uttered by the two politicians will no doubt be dissected, spun and interpreted in the wider battle for 10 Downing Street.
We have already had a few strategic soundbites about tomorrow’s Budget, focused mainly on plans to heavily penalise gas guzzling vehicles and offering incentives for householders to make their homes greener.
Many are predicting Mr Brown will have to spring a few surprises in order to deflect the mounting criticism of his attitude towards the environment.
But he has already suffered a major blow in a report from an influential group of MPs that concludes his pre-Budget report fell well short of what is required to seriously tackle climate change.
Members of the Environmental Audit Committee maintained the Chancellor’s report last December was “grossly inadequate” and that “steep cuts” in emissions were needed.
Committee chairman Tim Yeo stated that the Chancellor’s “lack of boldness” cast doubt over the Treasury’s “seriousness about implementing the Stern recommendations. It warns that the government’s own target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions (by 60% from 1990 levels by 2050), fell short of Stern’s recommendations (nearer 80%).
It said the recent doubling of air passenger duty (APD), from £5 to £10, had only brought it back in line with levels of five years ago. The committee suggested that APD should be levied per flight, not per passenger, that way it would also affect empty and freight flights.
In another blow ahead of the Budget, a poll in The Guardian suggests that Gordon Brown “would hand the Tories a 15-point lead if he was leading the (Labour) party at the next election”.
Regarded by some as one of the most successful Chancellors for many years, it could well be that Gordon Brown’s final Budget provides sufficient ammunition for his opponents – both inside the party and out – to scupper his long-held ambition to become Prime Minister.