James Forsyth

Watch your back, Darling

Watch your back, Darling
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The whispering campaign against Alistair Darling just went public. The Sunday Times carries an article today that is packed with devastating quotes from government insiders, albeit anonymous ones. We are told by an MP close to Number 10 that Brown’s team are openly considering moving Darling out of Number 11 in a reshuffle while a Treasury Civil Servant bemoans that Ed Balls is not in charge and claims that there wouldn’t be any of these problems if he was. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to work out who might be hoping from this briefing against Darling.

Yet, as Iain Martin points out at Three Line Whip, this is a dangerous game. First, losing a Chancellor is no small matter for a Prime Minister. If Brown was to get rid of Darling this side of an election it would call into question his judgement in appointing him in the first place. It would also be an admission that the economy is not—as the Brownites so often claim—perfectly positioned to deal with an economic downturn. Second, the Parliamentary Labour Party would not take kindly to seeing someone who must carry a large amount of the blame for the fiasco of the cancelled election getting promoted. Balls is also an appalling Commons and media performer, Michael Gove runs rings round him in the Chamber. Finally, we do not know how Darling would react to being jettisoned. He has been a loyal Brownite for many years but being used in this manner might cause even his patience to snap. Iain Martin is right that the prospect of Darling telling all about life with Brown should alarm the Brownites. Indeed, just remember what the consequences were the last time a loyalist but over promoted Chancellor was removed from his post. Mr Brown is “in office but not in power” anyone?

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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