David Blackburn

Alistair Darling – a loss to the Labour party

Alistair Darling – a loss to the Labour party
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Alistair Darling was one of the ministers to emerge from the Brown years with his reputation enhanced. His honesty about the state of the economy, beginning with that extraordinarily stark interview about the coming collapse, contrasted with what is politely described as Brown’s eternal optimism. Darling also deserves commendation for fighting Brown and Balls’ shameless politicking, and for winning.

However, Darling lost the battle over raising VAT hike. Darling told Andrew Marr this morning:

‘There's a choice really, you can put up VAT or you can put up an income-related tax which is what the National Insurance is...

"The advantage of VAT is it brings in a lot of money.

‘The former chancellor said he felt that Labour failed to make the case to voters for what it would do after the economy returned to growth.

‘I've always been of the view that, you know, we won the war if you like, you know, against what was happening in the banking system.

‘But we failed to make the case for what we would do when things returned to normal.’

In terms of the election, Darling’s tactics were spot on: the Tories lacerated the then government’s National Insurance rise, and gained momentum in a close race. He never ruled out raising VAT, but the government ceded credibility by having an economic policy which was entirely dependent on growth. Darling may yet be proved right that cuts need not be too deep at the moment, but he understands the economic and political necessity of addressing the deficit, and which measures are required at a particular point; Ed Balls and Ed Miliband do not seem to. Darling’s imminent withdrawal from frontline politics strengthens the Tories.