Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Gordon Brown's policies attacked by IMF"

Once a year the International Monetary Fund deliberates on the state of the British economy, and economic hacks get a chance to make the front page. This is only if it can be shown that the IMF has criticised the Chancellor, though. When I worked for Gordon Brown I didn't bother to respond to the IMF report because, no matter what it said, there would be something in it for everyone. This year was no exception.

The Telegraph predictably used a not very flattering reference to Brown's tax-and-spend policies. Can you imagine the IMF ever giving a glowing report to a country that is spending huge amounts on health and education? This, remember, is the organisation that demands poor countries cut back on their social spending. For other papers, it was the IMF claim that house prices were a big problem and there would be trouble ahead if the housing bubble burst. Well, tell us something we don't know.

The surprising thing about these reports

is that anyone takes them seriously. IMF economists are usually people who couldn't be trusted to run a corner shop, never mind a national economy. Despite this, the Telegraph used the report to explain why the Chancellor hasn't announced the Budget date yet. He wants it delayed to hide the poor state of the economy, apparently. In fact, Brown never decides the timing until the last minute,

infuriating both No 10 and his own officials.

What the Telegraph didn't report was that the IMF praised the Chancellor's "prudent and credible" handling of the economy and said that British economic prospects are relatively good. Not surprising, really, when we are outperforming the rest of Europe.