UK Chancellor was told to resign after holding budget during Cheltenham Festival

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    If 2004 is anything to go by, then UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt faces a losing battle when he announces Budget plans today. And it won't just be down to politics.

    Later this afternoon plenty of eyes will be on UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who is expected among other things, to announce that energy bills frozen at £2,500 a year will be extended for three months as part of the Government's plans. But while that matter is going on, thousands more punters will flood through the gates to enjoy the pulsating action from the prestigious Cheltenham Festival.

    Is there a chance Hunt is making a grave error by holding this annual event during one of Britain’s most popular sporting events? When Gordon Brown was the Chancellor 19 years ago, he risked losing the gains made by his Government with the announcement that the Budget clashed with the Cheltenham Festival.

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    Some even called for him to resign as a result, with former Conservative MP Richard Spring saying: “It is insult to everyone at Cheltenham and our four legged friends, this is a resignation matter in my view." The decision was branded by other members of the Government as a “absolute national disgrace” and a “miscalculation”.

    Much to the irritation of those more interested in events in the Cotswolds in mid-March, Brown delivered his statement on Queen Mother Champion Chase day. "I can't believe it. This is a social catastrophe," said the BBC's Business Editor at the time, Jeff Randall, a Festival regular who was tasked with reporting on the likely economic repercussions of the speech instead of enjoying the racing with fellow racegoers.

    "If the Chancellor is really serious about being popular in the City he should rescind this immediately." Peter Osborne, the former political editor of The Spectator, added: "It is an outrage and shows that Gordon Brown is losing his grip.

    "It is typical arrogance of the Chancellor," he added. "To wilfully court disaster by this reckless decision to affront the City by this thoughtless, quite frankly cruel, act – sadistic I almost call it – towards City traders who are forced to stay at their desks on the three most important racing days of the whole year is diabolical."

    Conservative MP Laurence Robertson, whose Tewksbury constituency includes the racecourse, slammed Brown's decision as "absolutely ridiculous".

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    "I have commitments to be at Cheltenham and it is a terribly difficult one," he explained. "The thing is you can listen to the Budget on the radio and get some of the reaction from that, but the Festival is a hugely important constituency event, not just a matter of the racing. There are business connotations and people there I have to see, so I will be going."

    The famous Queen Mother Champion Chase is set to take place at Cheltenham today, while DJ Cuddles’ dance track ‘Roar-Remix’ is due to be playing during a live set from 3.30pm to 5.30pm at the Best Mate Pavilion.


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    • Cheltenham
    • Horse racing
    • The Budget

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