The undoing of Brown

The Chancellor's chances of succeeding Tony Blair are looking less day by day.

by Patience Wheatcroft, business and City editor of The Times

The odds are lengthening on Gordon Brown making it to Number 10, despite Tony Blair's recent difficulties. The problem for the ambitious Chancellor is that the longer Blair delays his handover, the less impressive will look the credentials of the man who would succeed him.

Brown takes every opportunity to tell us what a successful economy he has fashioned, regurgitating numbers that he has digested from a carefully edited selection of statistics. But the actuality is different, as anyone running a business knows. Brown's chickens are coming home to roost and the poison injected into the UK economy is now taking effect. Increasing the tax burden slows down business growth. Brown knows that he needs thriving businesses to generate the social progress he wants to make, but he has not been able to escape his interventionist nature, which drives him to tax, regulate and meddle at every opportunity.

The result is that while Brown will regale us with reports of his success when he unveils his belated Pre-Budget Report this month, those who pay taxes know that the truth is different. The CBI claims that new taxes levied on business have collected £51 billion since Labour came into office in 1997. Business investment in Britain is low by international standards - that figure must have something to do with it.

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