The Racing Card

The Spread Bet - How many times would Gordon Brown use the word 'prudent' in his pre-Budget speech?

2-3 (Source City Index)

There has been just as much interest in the words Gordon Brown has repeated in the City as there has in measures he's announced. Favourite has been "prudent" (variants: "prudence" or "imprudent"), even though he used the word only four times in his 1999 Budget.

As I am writing this before the big speech, I can't tell you how much I won in buying "prudence". For the uninitiated, that means I thought he would use the word more than three times. Now that I've been away from the Chancellor for nearly two years, I don't think I could be accused of insider dealing. I must admit to having been tempted to have a punt on Gordon's first Budget speech, when the spread betting companies predicted the length of his speech at one and a half hours and I knew it to be only one. I didn't make the mistake of a predecessor of mine, who briefed the lobby hacks on the length of a chancellor's speech; they promptly went to the bookies and made a killing.

You could have bet on almost anything about the Chancellor's speech - except the measures he announced, because most of them had been leaked to selected papers in the normal way. The number of sips of water he takes is a popular bet among punters, although during his last Budget he didn't take any. It is the words he uses that attract most money. "Boom and bust" is a particular favourite of Gordon's, and gets a big cheer not only from the Labour backbenchers, but from the Tories, too.

Some people may think that it's pantomime politics to repeat the same words over and over again, but it is the only way to get the message across. In this case, it reminds the nation of what the economy was like under the Tories. And that's why Gordon also keeps repeating the message about not repeating the mistakes of the past - Tory mistakes.

This article first appeared in the 13 November 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - The fall of civic culture