Peturbed as I am by the mismanagement of the exchequer by the Queen's ghillie I have spent some little time in examination of his history in office. I do so not out of any jealousy as to the title of longest-serving Chancellor, even though it appears that alongside his jiggery-pokery and knavery in office there are indeed spurious claims that the man held this office for longer than myself. I note for instance that the electronic encyclopaedia, Wikipaedia, states he was the longest serving Chancellor since the Baron Bexley. Now Mr Brown served for some ten years whilst, in total, I accomplished some 12 years and four months in this office. Indeed the noble Lord Bexley served for only ten years and seven months.
I grant that both these gentlemen made continuous service in office; my experience ranged over a period of some thirty years I fear. Indeed on two occasions I appointed myself to the office and it is to be fervently hoped that Mr Brown does not seek to follow my example.
I return to the matter of Mr Brown's record as Chancellor. In spite of the ill-earned sobriquet, Murderer of Gordon, once attached to me, I do not pretend to be making an "assassination", a successful demolition of a political record as I cannot claim at present to have the wherewithal for such devastation. Nevertheless it is alarming to see the extent to which this man has veered over the years from good practices of management of the Treasury.
For more than anyone I have yearned over the years to reduce the income tax and to ensure that the State does not penalise working people for their travails. Yet I would never do so by means of creating a multitude of new taxes for it is of the utmost importance that the working man knows what he pays to the State and what he is due for his payments.
Let us consider the reduction of the income tax, reduced by one penny in 2000 and by a further tuppence this year. It would be a small but notable achievement for a Chancellor; except two-thirds of the reduction has been rejected by the populace as a confidence trick.
What of the first penny? It was indeed reduced in 2000 and the reduction remained affordable for all of two years. It seems that within that two years, the Chancellor discovered he had need of that one penny but dared not reimpose it. So what sleight of hand does he use, what jiggery pokery, what knavery?
The listener must forgive me for piling word upon word. I do so only to emphasise the requirement for the Chancellor to be honest with the population and to set against it the alarming proposition that in the modern age Chancellors have come to be praised for their dishonesty, for their ability to juggle and deceive the eye.
For that is what transpired in 2002. The one penny tax was reimposed, indeed reimposed twice, but not under the name of "income tax" but using the new device of "National Insurance", which I hear was created as a worthy concept by my Liberal successors in order to pay pensions and medical treatment costs. The detail of this imposition is by and large irrelevant to my case, although it may be worth some exposition; in mitigation it should be stated that the one pence was levied on the full range of income - whilst the bulk of national insurance is levied only to a certain point and has therefore become a regressive tax; in further condemnation it must be stated it was removed twice from the pay-packets of those in employment, once as a direct payment from the worker, the second occasion as an increase in the levy paid by the employer.
Secondly, on the charge sheet, I must draw attention to events between 1999 and 2001. On the face of it Mr Brown sought to establish a new standard for Chancellors by making announcements a year or even two years before they are put into effect. In honest hands it would be praiseworthy. But as has been learnt over the last year, the effect may be to protect blameworthy proposals from parliamentary and public scrutiny.
In 1999 the Chancellor announced he would remove the tax allowance hitherto given to married couples and that removal would take effect the following year. It was to be replaced by a child tax credit to support couples, married or unmarried, with children; but the "tax credit" was not to be introduced until 2001.
I will not dwell on the iniquitous nature of the so-called tax credit system introduced by this Chancellor. I have observed before that it has merely created an army of clerks and to deny many thousands those earnings to which they are entitled. Indeed I fear it creates a nation of beggars, of supplicants who must seek the return of their earnings by the filling of multiple forms. It is perhaps a theme to which I will return.
Nor will I dwell on the removal of support for married couples. Let me state merely that it was to be expected from a socialist Chancellor, an heir of William Blake. It would have appalled our dear Queen but I fear from the present Monarch there is, with inevitability, only silence.
Nay, my concern in this exposition is the 12 months between 2000 and 2001. During this period additional taxes were paid by married couples and no subsidies were paid to families, whether married or not, to assist with the costs of raising children. It was another sleight of hand.
The Queen's ghillie may rank with those of us who held this office for many years; he may be amongst the longest-serving but he will not be among the greatest. Indeed these tricks and deceits have served to demean this high office in a way worthy only of the great trickster Beaconsfield himself.