Alex Massie

Darling’s Revenge on Brown and Balls

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Not many Labour minister enhanced their reputations during the Last Days but, at least as far as the non-payroll vote was concerned, Alistair Darling was a rare exception. He seems to think so too, if today's Donald Dewar Lecture at the Edinburgh Book Festival is any indication. Some extracts from his address:

"Labour lost because we failed to persuade the country that we had a plan for the future. What is important now for our party is we take stock and be honest about what went wrong.

"We rather lost our way. Rather than recognising that the public were rightly concerned about the level of borrowing, we got sidetracked into a debate about investment over cuts.

"By failing to talk openly about the deficit, and our tough plans to halve it within four years, we vacated the crucial space to make the case for the positive role government can play.

"You will only convince people you've got the answers if they believe you know what the question is in the first place. You can't have political credibility without economic credibility."

"For the avoidance of doubt, I believe we handled the financial crisis of the past few years with competence, integrity and above all an absolute determination on my part not to put short-term political advantage before the interests of the country and, specifically, of risking a second period of recession."

"Warn, as I have tonight against the Tory gamble with people's jobs and livelihoods, but accept the need to cut the deficit."

"Yes, criticise the government for doing it too quickly and with too much enthusiasm. But let's not pretend that somehow that we can just ignore it. If we do, we will lose the crucial argument that you can reduce borrowing fairly, while supporting jobs and investing in the key areas of the future."

"Far from joining in with our opponents in trashing our record, all Labour's leadership candidates should stand up for it," he will say.

"For the calls we made in the recession. For the dramatic improvements in public services we delivered. For the fairness we entrenched through the minimum wage, increased help for pensioners and children and families. For constitutional reform and civil partnerships.

"But as well as being less defensive, we have to guard against talking, as I fear is becoming a feature of the leadership debate, to ourselves. A leader needs to lead, to challenge his or her party. Not just tell them what they want to hear."

"Of course we need to talk to those who voted for us. But we lost one million votes between 1997 and 2010. So it is essential we speak to those that didn't support us too. And to do that we need credibility. That means starting from where the country is, not where we'd like it to be." It's not so very difficult to see who this is aimed at: Gordon and all the wee boys standing for the Labour leadership. Doubtless this makes Darling a traitor too, even if he's not yet in the Milburn class of perfidy but it seems like common-sense to me. I suspect Hopi Sen, among others, will agree...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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