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Brown rebuked for scheduling Budget during Festival.


CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown yesterday risked losing the gains made by his Government this week with the announcement that the next Budget clashes with the Cheltenham Festival.

It will be the first time for six years that the Treasury's timing has

resulted in a conflict of dates to test the loyalties of racing enthusiasts in the corridors of power within political, business, financial and media worlds.

Much to the irritation of those more interested in events in the Cotswolds in mid-March, Brown will be delivering his latest fiscal statement on Queen Mother Champion Chase day.

"I can't believe it. This is a social catastrophe," said the BBC's Business Editor, Jeff Randall, a Festival regular now faced with reporting on the likely economic repercussions of the speech instead of enjoying the company of fellow racegoers.

"If the Chancellor is really serious about being popular in the City he should rescind this immediately."

Even more outspoken was Peter Oborne, political editor of The Spectator, who said: "It is an outrage and shows that Gordon Brown is losing his grip. It was a mistake made by Tory Chancellors. Norman Lamont made it and it always augurs ill

because it turns City sentiments against the Chancellor of the day.

"It is typical arrogance of the Chancellor, and just as they [the Government] are coming out of trouble with the Hutton report, to wilfully court disaster by this reckless decision to affront the City by this thoughtless, quite frankly cruel, act - sadistic I almost call it - towards City traders who are forced to stay at their desks on the three most

important racing days of the whole year is diabolical."

Similarly unimpressed with the scheduling is Charlie Whelan, a former adviser to Brown who is said to have persuaded his then boss that the best way to retain popularity in the City was not to schedule the Budget during the Festival. Confronted with a choice between the House of Commons or Prestbury Park on March 17, racing fan Whelan said: "I know where I'll be."

Taking the same stance will be Conservative MP Laurence Robertson, whose Tewksbury constituency includes the racecourse and who described Brown's decision as

"absolutely ridiculous".

Robertson said: "I have commitments to be at Cheltenham and it is a terribly difficult one. The thing is you can listen to the Budget on the radio and get some of the reaction from that, but the Festival is a hugely important constituency event, not just a matter of the racing. There are business connotations and people there I have to see, so I will be

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 30, 2004
Previous Article:Ten to follow: Paying the price for selecting a defensive formation.
Next Article:Hobbs blast at Festival closing dates.

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