Monday, September 01, 2008

The Monday morning blog: move over Darling

It is difficult to work out exactly what Alistair Darling intended with his Guardian interview. I doubt he was deliberately attempting to undermine the government yet his claims undermine the heart of Brown's message that the fundamentals of the UK economy are strong and we are better placed to get through the economic storm than other countries. Well, Darling has just holed that argument below the waterline.

So, was he simply admitting what everyone else knew, believing that to claim otherwise would be regarded as unbelievable by the people? Was he lowering expectations in anticipation of better times about to arrive? Was he being staggeringly honest or was it that, from his croft in one of the remotest corners of the UK, the government spin machine had far less grip so, instead of a super-refined, ultra-spun message, the tell-it-how-it-is approach won hands down?

It is unlikely we will ever know, but it has put a new twist on the issue of the economy. It's interesting to note that just 4 months ago, Labour were engaging in their usual histrionics about the Lib Dems, claiming we were being doom and gloom mongers on the economy and things were not as bad as we said. Now their own Chancellor has claimed that matters are far, far worse than anything we ever said.

What was also interesting about this whole saga was the well-spun and overly rehearsed message coming out of Darling himself when he was in the tv studios over the weekend. He was clearly back under the influence of the spin machine which had come up with the message that the government was tackling the economic problems. The constantly repeated examples he used were saving Northern Rock and giving a tax rebate this September. Odd examples to use however as these decisions had to be dragged out of ministers with Brown and Co kicking and screaming til the last moment resisting such moves.

Quite where this leaves Labour generally is unclear (other than to look confused and chaotic). It could be that with the focus of attention now on a suddenly colourful Darling, Brown will not risk sending him to the backbenches where he could end up pissing into the tent from outside. Yet there will be others who would like to see him exiled and will be saying that it's time to move over Darling.

Whatever the outcome, however, Labour government members should be encouraged to go on more holidays to remote places and do press interviews when they are there.

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