Last week the only British political issue of major significance was smear-gate. The reason that it grabbed and then dominated the headlines was that it resonated with how so many British people think Gordon Brown operates. The Prime Minister might have thought he could isolate himself from association with the unpleasantness that flowed from the 'black' culture he himself has always encouraged. But that was not how it turned out. And that's because the British people are not so daft. It was a question of credibility.
This week, the only British political issue is going to be the budget. The biggest challenge facing the Chancellor on Wednesday, is again one of credibility - persuading the British people to believe what he says. He starts at a great disadvantage, because of his incredible predictions when he delivered last November's Pre-budget Report. No-one believed what he said at the time, and his predictions, as expected, turned out to be fantasy. Let us recap on these predictions.
A year ago, the Chancellor, predicted that the Government would need to borrow £38 billion to balance the books in 2009/10. That was not believed. And the last November he increased this figure to £118 billion, a figure calculated on the utterly ridiculous basis that Britain would exit recession in July. No-one believed that either. This week he is expected to increase his prediction of public borrowing in 2009/10 to well over £150 million - and that does not include the many billions put at risk through the bailouts of the banks. These are figures way beyond anything we could ever have imagined. It means that Britain will exit the recession (at some stage) with a truly massive mountain of debt. Rucksackfuls of debt have been loaded onto the backs of our children. Its a gluttonous extravaganza of irresponsibility and greed by one generation at the expense of the next. This dreadful Government has enveloped the current generation which elected it in a collective shroud of shame.
If the 'leaks' are to be believed and the Chancellor intends to base his 'route map' out of this mess, and into some sort of balanced budget, sometime in the next decade on the basis of 'cuts' in bureaucracy and administration, and tax increases which kick in after the next election, he will not be believed. He will be mocked and he will be derided. And he will deserve it. Usually, when the Chancellor sits down at the end of his budget speech, attention immediately turns to studio analysts as they begin calculating how many pounds better off or worse off particular groups are. This year a higher proportion of these listeners will want to hear the Conservative's response. But the most important aspect of it all will be whether what the Chancellor says is believable.