Can Brown put the polls and the Turnbull attack behind him?
After what the Times is calling “Black Tuesday for the Chancellor” Gordon has a chance this afternoon to steady the nerves of his party and put his bid for the leadership beyond doubt.
For the budget is one of those great set-piece parliamentary occasions and is the only time during the year when the Chancellor and the leader of the opposition face each other across the chamber.
No doubt the name of Joseph Stalin will be mentioned several times today and the teams of Blair, Brown and Cameron will have been working on sound-bites to make the most of or take the sting out of yesterday’s attack on Brown by Lord Turnbull.
The plus point for Brown is that he speaks first and can frame the whole way that his budget is presented with, no doubt, some well thought out ways of undermining the Tories in general and David Cameron in particular.
It is then up to Cameron to respond and Brown does not have a chance to answer back. So this will only be a partial foretaste of what things will be like if and when Gordon takes over from Tony.
The challenge for Cameron is that he has to prepare a high-profile speech without knowing what Gordon is planning to say and to be able to think quickly and make amendments while Brown is speaking.
That’s why the Turnbull comments are such a gift. They provide the material to reinforce the existing Tory strategy of making Brown’s character an issue.
My big bet today is on the length of the speech. There have been suggestions that Gordon will try to make his last Budget tight and I have a big sell spread at 57 minutes. So if he comes in below I win my stake multiplied by the number of minutes short. If he’s long then I lose by the same calculation.