We at The Spectator are concerned about our occasional contributor, Frank Field. In last week’s magazine, the MP for Birkenhead declared that ‘the 10p revolt is unlike any other faced by the Labour leadership over the past 11 years… it has at a stroke placed clear red water between practically the whole of the Parliamentary Labour Party on the one hand and the government on the other.’ Over the weekend, he told the BBC that it was time for the Prime Minister to consult his loved ones with a view to resigning.
Yet it was a very different Mr Field who apologised unreservedly on Tuesday for his personal remarks about Gordon Brown, declared himself to be delighted with Alistair Darling’s (latest) rescue package for the 10p debacle, and said that he now felt able to campaign for the Labour party in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. Mr Field smiled with the wan rictus of a man who had recently spent an hour or two with the rats in Room 101 or, surrounded by Brownite tormentors, crying out: ‘No, no, not the comfy chair!’
It is depressing, at any rate, to think that he has fallen for this astonishingly cynical ploy by the government. Forking out £2.7 billion of public money, the Chancellor raised the starting point for paying tax by £600, ensuring that 22 million taxpayers who earn up to £40,835 and pay the basic rate of 20 per cent tax will receive an extra £120 in their pay packets this year. A nice windfall, one might think.
In fact, Mr Darling is simply robbing Peter to pay Peter. When the Chancellor said he would finance the package through higher public borrowing, ‘ensuring that we do not take money out of the economy at this time’, what he really meant was that the government had no money to spend, and so was adding to the swollen national debt.