Sunday, August 31, 2008

What’s Darling up to?

Alistair Darling’s interview has caused a bit of a kerfuffle. He said, among other things, that people are “pissed off” with the government, which is evidently true, and that economic conditions “are arguably the worst they’ve been in 60 years” – while this is the bluntest government assessment yet of the very real problems, that “arguably” surely bears the weight of a lot of hyperbole.

Some think that this may turn out to be a “Geoffrey Howe moment” – an intervention by a former loyalist that could precipitate the PM’s downfall.

Others think that, as these remarks may have undermined Gordon Brown’s imminent political strategy, the result will be Darling’s sacking in the predicted autumn reshuffle.

I’m not convinced. Because another thing he said, most unusually for a minister, was on that very subject:

Frankly, if you had a reshuffle just now, I think the public would say, Who are they anyway? You name me a reshuffle that ever made a difference to a government…And you can't be chopping and changing people that often. … I'm not expecting one imminently. I do not think there will be a reshuffle.

Perhaps Darling’s just angling to keep his job. There’s been reshuffle speculation over the summer, some of which has suggested that Darling might be shown the door. This interview means that such a move would be (a) pre-rubbished and (b) seen as punishment for, as George Osborne puts it, “letting the cat out of the bag” about the state of the economy.

I think that while Darling’s comments are awkward for Brown (not to mention for Darling himself, for the rest of the government, and for those of us party members who think that exaggerated doom-mongering is the job of the opposition), they make it harder for Darling to be sacked anytime soon.

Whether that was his intention, though, I cannot say. Maybe he’s just politically inept and didn’t mean anything by it.

1 comment:

tim f said...

Could he have been asked to take a personal hit to lower expectations about what the government can do to resolve the economic situation, and just gone a bit overboard in doing it?