--Fay Goddard is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society. The opinions expressed are her own.--
For the best part of 12 years, Labour has pursued essentially conservative (with a small ‘c’) economic policies, steadily underburdening itself of the ‘fiscally unreliable’ tag that some earlier Labour administrations were (wrongly or rightly) saddled with.
******Gordon Brown returns to Westminster today facing a host of negative headlines describing him as a ditherer who has failed to make his mark as prime minister.******The Telegraph reckons Brown’s “failure to define what he stands for is provoking despair even among his loyal supporters” and charts his evolution from a dominant figure in politics under Tony Blair to “Incapability Gordon Brown”.******While Foreign Secretary David Miliband asserts that Brown has “strong values and convictions”, bets are already on for who would be odds-on favourite to take over.******Brown’s cut in the basic tax rate, announced in the 2007 budget, was to be paid for, at least in part, by the abolition of the 10 percent tax rate, but the plan has now turned into a “calculated tax ploy that mutated into a monster”, according to the Independent.******The olive branch offered by Chancellor Alistair Darling to quell the rebellion has prompted outrage, the paper says. It quotes Frank Field, the former minister leading demands for a package of social help for the poorest earners, as saying the measures offered were insufficient. “The talk about bringing forward a package this year or maybe next year just will not do,” Field said.******“If the rebels prevail, Brown could be ousted in days” is The Guardian’s take on Brown’s woes. “For Labour to have scheduled the vote on the 10p tax rate days ahead of the local elections, and with London on a knife edge, seems an act of incompetence so breathtaking that I’m left wondering whether it’s a Baldrick-like cunning plan,” columnist Jackie Ashley writes.******But there is some caution against rushing into finding a new leader. Tribune’s Joan Smith draws parallels to hapless former Prime Minister Anthony Eden: “As the Tories discovered in 1955, some people are not temperamentally suited to the top job and that will almost certainly be posterity’s verdict on Gordon Brown,” she writes. “And while it’s amusing to watch all the people who used to talk up the PM-in-waiting as they scramble to explain their man’s failures, it does leave Labour with a very big problem” — who would be best to replace him?