Posted by Fraser at 8 13 PM on Saturday, March 14
I HEAR that Alistair Darling was off drowning his sorrows in a little bar on the Isle of Lewis recently.
In the Outer Hebrides, no one can hear your scream. And in his job, screaming is the only rational option.
He has two problems. A collapse of tax revenues—and a Prime Minister who wants him to spend even MORE.
It’s not quite war between these two clansmen, but it’s getting close to it. And from what I hear, Darling is fighting well.
He’s under huge pressure from Brown to have a massive tax cut in next month’s Budget, in time for the June local elections.
Darling’s message to No10 is simple: “Sorry, there’s no money.” Brown replies: “Well, tell the Bank of England to print some then.”
This is an exaggeration, but not much. The Bank of England is literally inventing money to buy government debt notes.
But Darling is worried. He knows just as there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s no such thing as free money.
If the Bank of England prints cash, the real money will come from somewhere. And no prizes for guessing where.
Yup, this shady manoeuvre is DESTROYING the value of pension funds. Brown reckons he’ll be long gone before folk realise.
Every day, our real national debt—Brown’s nasty farewell present to the nation—is being piled higher. Ministers don’t care.
Living under this government has become like having your Mastercard stolen—and never being able to cancel it.
In the time it took you to read that last sentence, the national debt went up by £9,200.
And Brown’s plan? To keep the tab running for the next SEVEN YEARS. It leaves our nation at permanent risk of bankruptcy.
A Labour problem? No. I know many Cabinet members are deeply unhappy about this. They, too, think Brown should be stopped.
But Ed Balls, Harriet Harman, Yvette Cooper and others see next month’s Budget as a political weapon. They want a final gamble. Darling thinks we’ve gambled enough. He’s watched Brown play ‘double or quits’ for 18 months— and lose every time.
Somebody has to stop the PM and his allies spending money the nation doesn’t have. And that someone is Alistair Darling.
Never mistake politeness for weakness. Darling realises his last mission in politics is to save what remains of the nation’s finances.
He has one nuclear option. If he were to resign, then denounce Brown from the back benches, it would really be over.
Twice he has offered to resign. Not with any menace. But just to let Gordo know that he doesn’t live in fear of being sacked.
The two have not had a head-on confrontation yet. The dirks are still sheathed in the kilt socks, as they say in Kirkcaldy.
But Darling isn’t alone. He’s backed by the Treasury staff, who will be left repairing Brown’s economic vandalism post-election.
He also has Mervyn King, who has another five years to serve running the Bank of England, battling for stability.
Two years ago, I’d have laughed aloud at the idea of this grey Edinburgh lawyer saying anything to Brown other than “yes, master.”
And when he first took his job, I said he’d be “no more a Chancellor than Captain Scarlet was an actor”.
I was wrong.
He’s cut free from the strings, and may yet turn out to be an action man. And, God knows, the taxpayers need one.
GOOD TO SEE Germany’s Angela Merkel stick to her guns, and refuse to borrow her way out of the debt crisis. I suspect winners in this recession will be those who DEFY conventional wisdom —which, after all, got us into this mess in the first place.