Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 11 December 2009

Darling should have called Brown's bluff

So it turns out that Alistair Darling and the Treasury wanted to go much further in terms of steps to control the deficit in Wednesday's pre-Budget report but Gordon Brown (with more than a little help from Ed Balls) overruled him.

Now of course we don't know the full story here. It could be that Brown had actually wanted an even more profligate PBR and that Darling managed to win a few skirmishes to get us to where we are but frankly he could have and should have done much better.

Let's just have a quick look at the political realities of Darling's situation. Everyone knows that Brown wanted to move him from the Treasury and replace him with Balls in the reshuffle earlier this year but was too politically weak when Darling dug his heels in and threatened to leave the cabinet altogether. That showed how powerful his position was. If anything, his position now is even stronger. We are only a few months from an election and a principled resignation on economic policy at this stage would be devastating for Brown. Darling could and should have insisted on pushing his tighter PBR through. What was Brown going to do? Fire him?

Alistair Darling had nothing to lose. After the next election, one of two things will happen. Either Labour will be out of power and hence Darling will no longer be Chancellor of the Exchequer (most likely). The second possibility is that by some dramatic turnaround, Brown actually manages to remain Prime Minister (pretty unlikely, but possible). If that happens then with a fresh mandate, you can bet that item number one on his agenda will be to get Balls into No 11. Therefore Darling has at best another few months as Chancellor.

He should have called Brown's bluff on the PBR. I suspect Brown would have folded faster than Superman on laundry day. Had he done this, Darling would have been doing the country (and incidentally his place in history) a big favour.

Instead he is now as guilty as Brown for not taking the necessary action when he had the chance.

1 comment:

Dippyness. said...

I wouldn't have wanted to try a stand up to Brown & Balls.
I should imagine he just gave up arguing.
Can't blame him.