Alastair Darling gets his way
Posted by Matt Walker on January 15, 2010
Last summer Gordon Brown intended to shift Chancellor of the Exchequer Alastair Darling out of the Treasury into another job, and replace him with Ed Balls. Darling was having none of it, threatened to resign and Brown backed down.
In November’s pre-budget speech Darling said very little about reducing the budget deficit. It was rumoured in the press that he had wanted to, but that Brown had over-ruled him for fear that it would lose Labour votes.
Last weekend, Darling stated publicly that even if Labour win the next election public spending will be the “toughest” for 20 years. Shadow Chancellor George Osborne was quick to pounce on this, saying that the government was in “complete confusion”.
Although Gordon Brown saw off last week’s attempted plot to unseat him, it seems that the price Alastair Darling extracted for his own support was this admission regarding public spending. His motive for doing so is unclear, but it has been suggested in the past that he is concerned to maintain his reputation for honesty in the wake of expected defeat at the next election. It could also be to do with logic – everyone knows cuts are going to happen, so it’s pointless to deny their scale.
Whatever the reason, where does this leave Labour now? How are they to differentiate themselves from the Tories? If the line is, “trust us to not cut frontline services”, then the current government will need to specify where these large cuts are going to take place.