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Prime time for man in a hurry to be elsewhere

Parliamentary Sketch by Paul McMillan

So, how many tears will be shed by the industry after seeing Gordon Brown’s last autumn Treasury address to the nation?

How many advisers will look back with misty eyes after a decade of the Chancellor pounding his clunking fist on the dispatch box as he boasts of fiscal achievements, golden rules and strategic investment while burying explosive mines in the lengthy small print?

This year’s nimble 37-minute address – for this is a man in a hurry to be elsewhere – contained little to curry favour with the financial services industry.

There will be no street parties in the City for stamp duty exemptions on zero-carbon homes.

At the same time, industry experts were sent scurrying through the numerous back pages to uncover the latest damage to long-term saving, with pension term assurance and Asps potentially suffering mortal blows while other areas such as inheritance tax got away with flesh wounds.

It was Prime Minister Brown addressing the nation so education, global poverty, transport and climate change took centre stage.

Was there not a slight feminising of the dour Scot as he prepares for power and to court the female vote, that newly developed metrosexual stance, the constant delicate stroking of the hands and what looked like a new brand of moisturising cream on Gordon’s hands?

With Brown moving to Number 10, the big question, of course, is who will take over as Chancellor and what chance will they have of asserting any authority in the role?

The reliable Alistair Darling is favourite as a constant member of the Cabinet since 1997 and a close ally of Brown.

There is also the chance of the ultra-Brownite outrider Ed Balls being given the role. He has certainly been building his profile since becoming Treasury Economic Secretary, with media exposure rivall-ing Britney Spears on one of her drunken binges.

There is also the keeping your enemies close argument, with a few believing that John Reid should be given the post and rekindling the Eastenders-style bickering we have seen for so long from Number 10 and 11.

There is also the possibility of a plumped-up Treasury being divided into two, with a ministry of economy, trade and productivity and a ministry of finance.

Whatever happens, you can be sure that the unprecedented power wielded by the position of Chancellor will not be repeated when the Blair era comes to an end and the unwavering grip that Brown has on financial services will be strengthened – not weakened – by his expec-ted coronation.

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