OPINION: Fresh Budget leaves behind a stale aroma

At the Treasury veteran civil servants used to tell me that Budgets that go down well on the day usually look a lot worse the day after. No one ever told me that they could look a lot worse 10 years later.

The media onslaught faced by Gordon Brown over his changes to tax credits on pension funds in 1997 had absolutely nothing to do with the effect they had on pensions. This was very little as both Anatole Kaletsky and Evan Davis, Britain's top two economic commentators confirmed last week. No, Brown has been targeted because he will be Labour's next Prime Minister and he just hasn't got the friends in high places Tony Blair had when he ­became Labour leader.

The truth is that until he gets the PM's job there is little he can do to fight off the unholy alliance of Blarites and Tories presently attacking him.

The one thing he can do though is to put all his political energy into fighting off the SNP threat in his native Scotland.

At present nearly all the polls put the SNP ahead of Labour and despite all Labour's big guns being targeted at the Nationalists there is little sign of any change. The SNP has become the recipient of all the protest votes against the war in Iraq, Tony Blair and a fairly ineffective Scottish Executive. This is despite the fact that the SNP's policies are a joke.

The Nat's economic plans in particular have been ridiculed by the Scottish media but it seems to make little difference to the polls. Even more infuriating is the fact that the vast majority of Scots (and the 400,000 English living there) don't support Independence, the sole reason for the SNP's existence.

If, as seems likely, Alex Salmon triumphs on May 3rd then it will be Gordon Brown who suffers. Not only will he take much of the blame for the defeat but his position as a Scot leading the country will be questioned and not just by the Tories.

Last month more than 50% of the population thought Gordon Brown was running the economy well. Today only 40% think so. And what has happened to the economy in that time? It actually strengthened. All we have had is negative Brown stories but they are nothing compared to what happens if the SNP win.

The irony is that the deep unpopularity of the Tories in Scotland helps the SNP and damages ­Gordon Brown, so the worse the Tories do in Scotland the better for Cameron.

How Gordon Brown and his team cope with the impending ­crisis will probably dictate who wins the next election. charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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