The Spectator

The Gordon and Alistair show

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It was the Gordon and Alistair show today, rather than the Brown press conference. And Darling did far more than the intro. He jumped into answer questions, with his message – that HMS Britain was built by Labour to weather a world economic storm. He detailed meetings with world leaders, as if to try and hammer home his point that innocent Britain is caught in a world economic problem, not our fault guv, etc. Anyway, here are five thoughts on each of them…

DARLING

1) “Right across the world, this will be a difficult year”. But few face a UK-style slowdown. The average OECD economy grew by 2.7% last year and is forecast to do 2.3% this year. No major country is facing a growth deceleration as sharp as Britain - from 3.1% to 2.0%.

2) “We are better placed than most other countries…” We would be if we didn’t have the largest budget deficit in Western Europe.

3) “We have more people in work than ever before” Thanks to immigrants who took or created 80% of the jobs since 1997.

4) “Low mortgage rates” I take it Darling’s mortgage isn’t coming up for renewal this year. The Telegraph’s story - “cost of home loans highest in seven years” tells the story of what voters are experiencing.

5) “We have lowest unemployment since 1975” A slogan left over from the 2001 campaign – and it wasn’t even true then. Today unemployment is 5.3%, ahead of 4.2% in 1975 (and Nov79) and even Jul00. Unemployment is expected to hit 1.8m this year – a ten year high.

BROWN

1) Incapacity benefit. Brown responded not by trashing the Tories but saying he was tough too – on single parents, etc. Interestingly, little ideological difference in this battle.

2) Decent gag – about not following Sarko’s example and wedding a supermodel. Could have done with half a dozen more of them,

3) “We recognise that the problem in 97 was lack of jobs, the problem in 2007 was lack of skills.” This would be easier to believe if hundreds of unskilled immigrants were not arriving here each day and finding work.

4) “Where interest rate cuts happen, building societies have a duty to take that into account” – Yes but real problem is the old link between the BoE base rate and inter-bank borrowing rates has been broken. LIBOR is only now falling – but is still way north of the base rate. This, not profiteering from lenders, is the problem.

5) “What’s happened in Glasgow is that there has been a very large increase in employment and decrease in unemployment”. True. In May03, some 30% of Glasgow were on benefits – in May07 it’s 25.1%. The Pathways to Work programme was piloted here, and delivered results with private firms doing the placements. If it had been rolled out properly, Labour would not be so vulnerable to Cameron’s attack now.