James Forsyth

What have you done Darling?

What have you done Darling?
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The blogs are alive with Alistair Darling’s observation from China about what the government needs to do: “But we have also got to make sure that in other areas we sharpen ourselves up, that we have a clear message of what we are about.'”

Darling’s comments fit Michael Kinsley’s definition of a gaffe perfectly, ‘a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.’ With the government well behind in the polls and being constantly battered by bad news stories, it would be bizarre if the Chancellor thought everything was going well. But saying out-loud that the government needs to sharpen up is just inviting the opposition and the press to pile on.

But the Darling quote isn’t the one that should really worry Gordon Brown. That honour goes to a long-standing labour official quoted in Anne McElvoy’s Evening Standard column.

"Gordon has got a huge political problem, not just an image one," confides one longstanding senior party official. "He can't do empathy and people now doubt his efficacy. It doesn't leave much." 

The quote is all the more damning for having the ring of truth about it. Until Brown addresses this fundamental problem, no amount of sharpening or message discipline will be able to pull Labour out of its downward spiral.

Written byJames Forsyth

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

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