Peter Hoskin

Move over, Darling

Move over, Darling
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Ok, I know - deckchairs, Titanic, and all that.  But a reshuffle rumour in this morning's papers is still worth mentioning.  Both the Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Mirror are reporting that Brown could take the "nuclear option" of moving Alistair Darling to the Home Office, and installing someone else as Chancellor.  As the Telegraph puts it:

"If Mr Darling was moved, sources said, the new Chancellor was likely to be either Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary; David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary; or Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary. The source said: "Alistair will have had two of the toughest years one could possibly imagine as Chancellor. There is a case to be made for saying he has taken the tough decisions in the Budget and, as far as possible, set us on the road to recovery.


Mr Brown has long been suspected of favouring Mr Balls, his closest cabinet ally, both for the Chancellorship and his successor as Labour leader. If, however, the job went to Mr Miliband, that could open up the possibility of a simple job swap between him and Mr Darling.

Making Mr Johnson Chancellor would have the advantage of 'binding him in' to Mr Brown. He is the favourite to become a potential 'unity candidate' for Labour leader if efforts are made to remove Mr Brown."

You can see the thinking - particularly in the case of Alan Johnson - but I still think that moving Darling would be a mistake overall.  For starters, it could be taken by the public as an admission that the Government is failing on the economy.  Then there's the risk that putting Balls or Miliband in No.11 could worsen the poisonous divides and jealousies in the party.  And, finally, Darling - who has been fighting a running battle with Brown over the scale of public spending and borrowing - may not be the best person to rile.  Anyway, we shall see.