Fraser Nelson

Darling has a point

Darling has a point
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I had expected Alistair Darling to have slumped off to spend more time with his memoirs after the election, but here he is, fists aloft, fighting the government. About the only member of the Labour front bench effectively doing so.

He has a point. The economy is looking better than expected, not worse - as David Cameron has been pretending. Each new forecast for the deficit seems to give a less ghastly picture. British house prices are on the rebound. And when the Office of Budget Responsibility announces its forecasts on Monday, it is likely to give a better picture than that in Darling's budget. Already Darling is telling the Guardian that he wants "an apology" if this is so. This itself is rather rich: Darling was the Chancellor who doubled national debt and it is he who should be apologising to those of us who will pay it. But he is, at least, fighting. And if the FT story today is true - that he hid the improving state of national finances from Brown - then he can genuinely claim to have done his country a service. Labour could do a lot worse than keep him as Shadow Chancellor.

PS: Interestingly, this OBR looks like being a name given to a spun-off Treasury forecasting division. From next week on, HMT will not make forecasts - but simply those made by the OBR (but compiled, it seems, by the same staff). So the OBR will not provide a second opinion. There remains a need for one. I hope the Treasury Select Committee can get enough resources for their equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office. We will need more than Sir Alan Budd and Darling to hold Osborne's feet to the fire.