Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Black Wednesday?

The eyebrows are the same, the looks of panic are the same, but is yesterday's astonishing balls-up really Labour's equivalent to Black Wednesday? Even when the continuing crisis over Northern Rock is taken into consideration, there hasn't, yet, been the killer moment that stands as shorthand for all that is useless about this Government. For all that, this is about as serious a crisis as there can be for this Government.
The problem they face is that, for all Gordon Brown's talk of his 'vision', there has been precious little of it on display. This has been a Government that has sought to portray itself as one devoted to competence - to performance. Once you remove a sense of vision and purpose, and replace it with an ambition to ministerial competence, there is no wriggle room left when that competence is challenged. For the Tories, this presents a golden opportunity to capitalise on Labour's discomfort. The attack of simply not being good enough at the job is a difficult one for Brown to endure, but endure it he will have to.
As far as Darling is concerned, this latest disaster really wasn't of his making. Collapse in the morale and efficiency of the Revenue has been building since the disastrous merger with Customs - and that was the brainchild of none other than the Primie Minister. However, Darling is an unlucky Chancellor, as well as an unimpressive one. First Northern Rock, then Inheritance Tax, now HMRC - it's hard to see how he can retain both his job and any credibility. Brown now has a lame duck Chancellor, to go with his lame duck Home Secretary. No wonder David Milliband was grinning like a coal scuttle in the Commons yesterday.

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