BY PATRICIA TREBLE • Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer has carefully cultivated a reputation for fiscal prudence in his long quest to become prime minister when Tony Blair steps down sometime this summer. Yet a 200-page booklet Gordon Brown edited as Edinburgh University’s student rector in the ’70s suggests a dodgier approach to budgets in the past. Brown’s dossier, made public Saturday, showed young people how to “use and abuse” Britain’s welfare state so they can live like “parasites” on the “free money” they’d get from social security benefits. There was practical advice on how to “con” free food out of college cafeterias by masquerading as students, and even how to sneak past hotel security to take a hot bath.
The youthful left-wing diatribe was the latest drip of bad news to hit Brown in the past few weeks. In late March, the government’s former top civil servant, Lord Turnbull, savaged the Labour politician on the eve of his budget by revealing that the chancellor, who exhibited a “Stalinist ruthlessness,” held his cabinet colleagues in “more or less complete contempt.” (Last fall, former home secretary Charles Clarke warned that Brown was a “control freak” who had psychological issues.) Then, in early April, the Sunday Times reported
that while preparing for his inaugural 1997 budget, Brown ignored warnings of dire consequences of his $12billion annual raid on British pension plans. Now many of the funds are in trouble and retirees, facing sharply reduced benefits, blame Brown for exacerbating the situation. On Sunday, a poll found that just 27 per cent of Britons thought Brown was fit to be PM, while 57 per cent , deemed him unworthy.
With the Conservatives ahead in the polls, an “anyone but Gordon Brown” movement is growing within the party with the powerful home secretary, John Reid, indicating he’ll run if another strong challenger doesn’t step forward. But it’s unclear if anyone can stop Brown from moving into 10 Downing St. M
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