It is rare for the BBC to lead news bulletins with a story based on anonymous sources; but they have been going very strongly today on something which shows sheer recklessness on the part of the Prime Minister.
It concerns his unwillingness to tackle the unprecedented deficit he will be bequeathing the country in favour of continued public spending for what he would appear to believe is political advantage at the general election.
On the BBC website, political correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti is quoted as saying of the Pre-Budget Report:
"The Treasury wanted a tougher package,
mindful as it was of the need to start restoring the finances – and to
be seen to be doing so.
"But, with an election just months
away, it was overruled by Gordon Brown and his close political ally
[Schools Secretary] Ed Balls, who in September spoke of wanting to see
a real-terms increase in the schools budget."
> The Guardian reports that Brown blocked a Treasury plan to increase VAT rather than National Insurance.
4pm update: George Osborne has issued the following statement:
"If Gordon Brown has overruled the advice of the Treasury in order to put his own political interests ahead of the economic interests of the nation, if he has imperilled the jobs and prosperity of millions for the sake of his wretched political dividing lines, then he has betrayed the responsibilities of the office he holds.
"We now urgently need the Treasury to publish its own plan for dealing with Britain's debts, so we can see the truth and get this country back on track. Our proposal for an independent Office for Budget Responsibility would go a long way to exposing this kind of dangerous politicking.
"There was nothing in the PBR to reassure international markets about the sustainability of our public finances or the Government's willingness to get a grip on the deficit – as we saw from yesterday's negative market reaction, Gordon Brown is playing politics with Britain's economic reputation."