Peter Hoskin

The two sides of Alistair Darling

The two sides of Alistair Darling
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After delivering an insipid, insufficient Budget yesterday, Alistair Darling has now smuggled a little bit of honesty into the fiscal debate.  In interview with Nick Robinson, he has claimed that if Labour is re-elected its spending cuts "will be deeper and tougher" than Thatcher's.  Needless to say, that's a message which will not sit well with his Cabinet colleagues like Ed "investment vs cuts" Balls.

And this is precisely why Darling is such a confusing figure.  Yes, he deserves some praise for being more upfront about the public finances than his predecessor ever could be, and for restricting the wilder excesses of Brown and Balls.  But it's hard to forget that he, as Chancellor, hasn't delivered a spending review when we need one most.  And that, only a few months ago, he was claiming departmental budgets would remain "pretty much flat".  Talk about topsy-turvy.

To be honest, I suspect that the Good Darling is more or less the Real Darling, and that the Bad Darling is a toxic byproduct from working alongside Gordon Brown.  But surely that doesn't mean the Chancellor can escape all blame.