Brown slammed as B&B slumps

Gordon Brown couldn't be any gloomier this morning if he was in charge of Bradford & Bingley...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

When you've spent ten years as Chancellor presiding over an era of almost unprecedented economic prosperity before taking over as Prime Minister, you’d expect to at least have plenty of credibility when it comes to the economy. But a new poll has discovered that more than two-thirds of us don’t trust Gordon Brown and co to rescue Britain from the credit crunch. Even the Italians have more faith in their politicians' economic skill than we do, which is a fairly damning indictment...

According to the poll (in today’s FT), 68% of Britons have ‘no confidence at all’ in the government’s ability to deal with the current financial crisis. That’s a much higher proportion than in Germany (where the equivalent figure was 52%), the US (51%), France (50%) and Italy (43%) and suggests that the Prime Minister’s much cherished reputation for economic competence is now very much a thing of the past. And since this has been the cornerstone of his entire political standing, today’s figures will make uncomfortable reading for the beleaguered Brown.

Judging by the latest upheaval in the banking sector, he certainly can’t claim to have got the current crisis under control. This weekend Bradford & Bingley, the mortgage lender that’s been dogged by rumours that it could become the next Northern Rock, was back in the spotlight again – reports in the Sunday papers suggested that it’s planning to raise hundreds of millions of pounds through a rights issue, in a desperate attempt to shore up its balance sheet.

However, the lender has since come out fighting: ‘Bradford & Bingley has a strong capital base, above its regulatory requirements, and as a result of the Board's conservative approach, has funded its business activities through 2008 and into 2009,’ it denied-until-it-was-blue-in-the-face this morning. And although its share price sank to its lowest level in five years when the market opened, it does seem to have bounced back now (albeit to a level 40% below its pre-Christmas price).

One of the few people doing rather well out of all this chaos is Shadow Chancellor (and recent MT cover star) George Osborne, who’ll be putting the boot into the PM again today at the Policy Exchange think-tank. Osborne will apparently suggest that Brown has been ‘found out’ and that ‘his economic reputation is in tatters’. He’ll certainly hope this is true – but the rest of us have a lot more to lose if Brown does make a mess of it...

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