Peter Hoskin

Darling’s measured approach will drive Brown mad

Darling's measured approach will drive Brown mad
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I've just got around to reading Alistair Darling's Mansion House speech from last night, and I'd recommend that CoffeeHousers flick through it too.  It's a strange mix which takes some dechipering.  At first glance, there's plenty of talk about "investment"; the doubling, tripling and quadrupling of budgets; and how "cutting spending across the board would choke off the recovery".  But the overall emphasis - which, in turn, has become the emphasis of the newspaper coverage - is on bringing the public finances back into shape, and on lowering the debt burden.

It's a speech which No.10 should welcome as it's a not altogether unsuccessful refinement of the blunt "Labour investment vs Tory cuts" line: setting it in a framework of "tax increases for those that can afford them", public service reform and waste-cutting.  Sure, not stuff that meets the challenge of the debt crisis - but politically smarter than yet another dividing line from the Dear Leader.  And that's why, in the end, I imagine it will be rejected by Brown and Balls.  They'll regard Darling's more measured approach as a direct attack on their crass politics - and perhaps rightly so.

What we're seeing now is a defining split in the government, and one which could fester more openly than the Blair-Brown divide ever did.  On one side, you've got Balls and Brown - who, you feel, are too far gone to back down from their crude dividing line now - and, on the other, an emboldened Chancellor whose rhetoric on "living within our means" somtimes chimes more closely with that of the Tories.  Expect fireworks around the next Pre-Budget Report, if not sooner.