Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Brown didn't shoot Letwin's fox"

I must have been the only person in Britain who actually saw a fox, though regrettably not being shot, during Gordon Brown's Budget speech.

Thinking the Budget presentation was in its traditional afternoon slot, I was out fishing and was only alerted to the Chancellor's speaking earlier than normal by a City trader, also out on the river. We adjourned to my car for the speech, and it was from there that we saw the fox running across a field. And our reaction to the Budget? Oliver Letwin is fucked.

The new joint chair of the Conservative Party, Lord Saatchi, must be the only person in Britain who disagrees with my crude assessment of where the Budget leaves Tory economic policy. "The bastards stole all our ideas," cried one Tory pal. Well, that's politics - and a result of the Tories' decision to rush out their economic plans without thinking them through, and announce them before Brown's Budget. They ain't seen nothin' yet. My old boss still has to present his Comprehensive Spending Review, and probably yet another Budget.

Lord Saatchi, brought in by Michael Howard to sharpen Tory PR, must take much of the blame for the political gaffe. But instead of keeping his gob shut and working out how to get the Tories out of the mess he got them into, he told the Telegraph that, "far from shooting our fox, Labour has shot itself in the foot". Even the Torygraph doesn't believe that. It ran a front-page cartoon of Brown kicking Letwin into touch.

The Telegraph admits that at Tory Central Office there are now bitter recriminations. But the sharpest attacks are aimed at Saatchi. "He's a one-poster wonder," one top Tory told me. Ouch!

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