Monday, February 18, 2008

Darling surely has to go

It was always said during the Blair years that the worst job in politics would be Chancellor under Gordon Brown. After ten years in total control of the Treasury, there would be no way that Brown would tolerate a mighty Chancellor - let alone one of near equal status. Darling, when he began, was touted as being essentially a safe, dull pair of hands. Having risen without a trace through cabinet, Darling would be unexciting but competent. His talent for keeping his departments out of the news was just what Brown wanted.
It hasn't quite worked out that way. A combination of roosting pigeons, contemporary incompetence, and downright bad luck has culminated in a crushing humiliation. Anatole Kaletsky is almost certainly right when he describes the nationalisation of Northern Rock, after six months of diffident, dithering indecision as meaning that the fiasco has only just started, with the Government now officially in charge. To make matters worse, Darling has been revealed as a painfully poor communicator. To listen to him this morning on Today was pitiful - his long wrangling over whether he agreed with Jim Cousins that nationalisation would lead to a long lingering death for Northern Rock's employees, even to the point of making John Humphries read it out from Hansard, was dreadful.
Cameron and Osborne are certainly right to call for his resignation - but Brown will surely try his hardest to deny it to them. The precedents for Prime Ministers that lose their Chancellors are not at all encouraging.

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