Alistair Darling writes in tomorrow’s Speccie diary…
“I display my knife skills, carving the meat. Who says Labour can’t cut?”
We learn from Alistair Darling’s memoirs that immediately after James Purnell resigned Gordon Brown reluctantly gave up on replacing him with Ed Balls. The course of history would have been very different if the kamikaze economic duo had got total control of the economy in 2009. The Prime Mentalist and Banzaii Balls would have pushed us into Greek territory…
The other counter-factual piece of history concerns the subsequent secret meeting on the farm between David Miliband and Alistair Darling. If David Miliband had the courage to tell Darling that they should oust Brown, history might be very different. They could have forced Brown out, changed economic course and lured the LibDems into a post-election coalition. The Rose Garden could have been the scene of a Miliband-Clegg romance. Miliband lacked the cojones to take the gamble, unlike his younger brother.
One question remains for Guido. Who owned the Essex farm that was the scene of their meeting? Who did they both trust enough not to reveal their dangerous liason? Essex farms don’t come cheap…
UPDATE: Guido’s Essex boy reckons that the “friend’s farm” at which Darling met Miliband probably belonged to Catherine MacLeod, his spin-mistress.
Alistair Darling on the Brownies…
“It would be wrong to claim that there was a plot to get rid of Tony Blair; there was no plot. A plot is secret. This was an open campaign, and as far as the Brownite cabal were concerned, you were with them or against them. It was a fairly brutal regime, and many of us fell foul of it.”
Siôn Simon’s Labour Uncut blog had two exclusives from Alistair Darling’s forthcoming new memoir. Both of which got a lot of follow-on from the media, and both of which appear to have been cut from the website today. Presumably this is under pressure from the publishers who have sold the exclusive extracts to the Sunday Times.
There is speculation that this leak could cost Darling a lot of money in lost serialisation fees. Guido has republished the cut bits of Labour Uncut here. Just trying to be helpful…
UPDATE: Labour Uncut confirm the cuts were made after threats from the publishers.
Guido has a feeling that history will judge Alistair Darling far kinder than any of the other bunker dwellers. With his new book coming out, apparently we will be hearing more about the Prime Mentalist and forces of hell, and the Sons of Brown too. Darling barely disguises his dig at his Labour successors in the Indy:
“It is not enough to say this Government is not doing well and say it is damaging important things in this country. We have to show we have a vision of what Britain can be that is better. If we don’t establish in the public mind we are more competent [on the economy] than the Tories, then we won’t make any headway.”
Looks like Darling is as unimpressed with the blank sheet of paper as David.
The appointment of Ed Balls as shadow chancellor means that deficit denial becomes the central economic policy of the Labour Party. In essence both the Eds intend to argue that it was the banking crisis and only the banking crisis that caused the deficit. In taking this policy direction they repudiate the more sensible realistic policy followed by the last Labour Chancellor, Alistair Darling.
It also flies in the face of statements made by Tony Blair in his memoirs and as recently as last Friday at Davos. Since Balls isn’t an idiot we have to ask ourselves: why is he trying to deny reality? Does he think the voters can be convinced that overspending wasn’t a problem until the banking crisis? Here he is telling Andy Marr there was no structural deficit under Labour:
Clearly both the Eds think they can blame it on the bankers, popular understanding of the deficit is hazy. The huge one-off costs of bailing out the banks and the constant government-debt-bloating-deficit are confused in the popular consciousness. Even the debt and the deficit are confused in many people’s minds. Whenever Ed Miliband is cornered on spending or taxes he reaches for the banker bogeyman – tax them more and it will sort everything out. None of this adds up to anyone with any financial literacy, which unfortunately is a minority of voters, the majority of voters do blame and detest the bankers.
For this argument to make sense of course requires Ed Balls to deny that there is, or ever was, a structural deficit that had to be tackled. Which is exactly what he did on the Marr show today.
Denying the deficit and blaming the government’s debt crisis on the bankers is an attempt to absolve Brown, Balls and the Labour Party of the blame. It thus allows Balls to claim that, since there is no structural deficit, the cuts are unnecessary and ideological. Which is exactly what he does.
The problem for Balls is that the public senses innately that the government under Brown’s chancellorship and premiership was overspending. If Osborne can keep that national memory alive over the next three years the public will forgive him doing what is necessary. If they forget, or prefer to believe Ed Balls’ claim that cuts are not really necessary, they will blame the government for the coming hardships. The deficit blame game will have to be played until the next election.
The Chancellor has followed on from Dave by buttering up the Lobby and just as when the PM did his comedy turn, riots raged outside. Apparently his jokes weren’t as good, but he did let the cat out the bag about those photo ops outside No. 11…
We already knew that Gladstone’s red box, bought back by Alistair Darling, was having its final outing with George Osborne’s Emergency Budget, but what we learn today is that the scarlet leather box, made in the early 1860s, is in fact empty and the key was lost years ago. There must be a metaphor there somewhere…
Here is something you probably didn’t ever expect to read: George Osborne is the most popular Tory chancellor in modern history according to pollsters Ipsos Mori.
Guido called them up to check. Yes they have asked the same question since Geoffrey Howe; “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with what X is doing?”
Osborne has a 20% net approval rating, higher than Lawson’s at the time of the boom, higher than that nice Mr Major’s rating, higher than Ken Clarke when he handed over the goldilocks economy to Labour. Incidentally, Darling had a 20% net disapproval rating immediately before him.
Alistair Darling is launching an attack on the Brown-Balls “spend, spend, spend” dividing line election strategy and the continued deficit denial of Ed Balls. Remember that at one point before the election Gordon Brown tried to replace Alistair Darling with Ed Balls because of his resistance to total fiscal insanity.
Darling is giving the Donald Dewar Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Book Festival today and will say that
“Labour lost because we failed to persuade the country that we had a plan for the future. What is important now for our party is we take stock and be honest about what went wrong.
“We rather lost our way. Rather than recognising that the public were rightly concerned about the level of borrowing, we got sidetracked into a debate about investment over cuts.
“By failing to talk openly about the deficit, and our tough plans to halve it within four years, we vacated the crucial space to make the case for the positive role government can play.
“You will only convince people you’ve got the answers if they believe you know what the question is in the first place. You can’t have political credibility without economic credibility.”
At almost the same time Darling’s successor George Osborne will be delivering a very similar message, he will attack Brown’s claim to have ended boom and bust, calling it “the greatest failure of economic policy-making for more than 30 years, since the IMF crisis of 1974“. He will tell analysts at Bloomberg’s City HQ that the “deficit deniers” are “taking the British people for fools”. Balls may be the worst and most explicit deficit denier, but none of the Labour leadership candidates has much to say about the fiscal crisis they created.
The Douglas Carswell Shock | Tim Stanley
Carswell is a True Moderniser | Charles Moore
Assembling a New World Order | Henry Kissinger
India’s Modi Bypasses Mainstream Media | Index
Bercow on the Knife Edge | Quentin Letts
Welcome to Mississippi | Conservative Women
LibDems Select Hancock Replacement | Blue Guerilla
Carswell Resigning: “Moment Labour Won Election” | Labour Uncut
Why We Need Change | Douglas Carswell
The Howard Roark of Westminster | Guardian
Carswell, the Clacton Cassandra | James Ford
“I stab people in the front, not the back.”
Owen Jones says:
We also need Zil lanes.