David Blackburn

Darling: it’s not as bad as all that

Darling: it’s not as bad as all that
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Alistair Darling is about to retire to the backbenches, though he stresses (and hopes) that it's a brief stint in obscurity. ‘I get bored,’ he tells the Guardian in an interview today. Darling is remarkable. He emerged from 13 years in cabinet and a hellish tenure as Chancellor with his reputation enhanced. There were rumours of a leadership bid, but those were fanciful. Darling was not an architect of New Labour, but he certainly laid the odd brick.

Darling could not break the legacy of Blair and Brown, and reveals as much in his Guardian interview. As Shadow Chancellor, he has to defend his record as Chancellor and argue that the government has resorted to scare tactics:

‘It is simply not true that there is any new information that wasn't publically available at the time I did the budget. Only two things have changed: one, our economy is growing slightly faster than the last figures that were published, at 0.3%, but it's still modest. The other is that borrowing turned out to be about £10bn less than I forecast. Now, on Monday we will have the new Office for Budget Responsibility forecast for growth and we will also see the figures for what borrowing is. And I tell you this: if borrowing turns out to be lower still – and I wouldn't be at all surprised if that is the case, because public finances are in better shape than I think we thought – then I want an apology out of David Cameron. Because he will have misled people, and that is an extremely serious charge to lay against a prime minister.’

Arch talk from the Badger, and he may well be proved correct: perhaps borrowing will be £10bn less than forecast, or even £20bn less. But a deficit of £147bn compared to one of £167bn? It’s like asking if you’d prefer French or Italian rosé: it’s still rosé.