04 September 2011

Darling vs Brown

Been incredibly busy recently so not much time to blog, but I just wanted to say something about Alastair Darling's forthcoming and much-trailed memoirs in which he reveals sordid details of his life at Number 11 Downing St when Gordon Brown was at Number 10 - by all accounts, a very difficult three years.

Of course, we know already - primarily from Andrew Rawnsley's excellent The End of The Party - that Brown was a notorious bully, extremely difficult to work with, often chronically indecisive, and finally unable to present the kind of decisive break from the Blair years which might have enabled Labour to win a fourth term in 2010. In personality terms, my sympathies have to be with Darling - by all accounts a likeable and easy-to-work-with guy who had been a close friend of Brown for years, but found himself a target of the most appalling dirty tricks operation from the Brown henchmen when he dared to confide to the Guardian that the economic situation really was very bad indeed. Brown's insistence at the time that the financial crisis would blow over in 6 months now looks totally ludicrous (although to be fair to Brown, in summer 2008 when Darling observed that things were the worst they'd been for 70 years, most expert opinion didn't really believe things were that bad. The realisation came in autumn 2008, when the world banking system suddenly began to unravel completely.)

And yet... there's blame on both sides here. Having suddenly become the saviour of the global financial system (with able assistance from Darling) in autumn 2008, for my money Brown showed more political nous in 2009 than did Darling, but was ultimately done in by the fact that most of his cabinet hated him and didn't believe in him anymore. One of the reasons James Purnell resigned from the cabinet in Summer 2009 was that Brown refused to talk about the dreaded "c-word"... cuts. But I think the reason Brown didn't talk about "cuts" until autumn 2009 was that he realised that it would be pretty much impossible for Labour to win an election promising a slightly moderated version of a cuts agenda dictated by George Osborne and the Tory party. Brown realised that the economic battle has to be about Labour investment versus Tory cuts in order for Labour to have a cat in hell's chance of winning. The plan that Darling and the Treasury delivered going into the 2010 election was for cuts almost as bad as what the Tories were promising - this made it EXTREMELY hard for Labour to develop a coherent economic narrative in the 2010 election, a fact that Darling has acknowledged himself in interviews this weekend. Labour was left looking like an ersatz version of the Tories (which is, by the way, what the idiots in the Labour Right want Ed Miliband to do in 2015, and it'll have about as much success.) It was also patently clear during the election that Brown didn't believe his own economic narrative.

So in the end it is Alastair Darling that is partially responsible for Labour getting 29% of the vote in 2010. Only partially, because the other main reason for Labour's failure is because Gordon Brown was the hardest of hard sells by then. An exhausted, unlikeable and tragic figure on the doorstep, who should surely have been knifed hard by one of his senior cabinet members in 2008 or 2009. And this is the other reason why Darling takes his fair share of the blame for Labour's failure... because, along with Miliband, Johnson, Straw and all the other potential alternative leaders, he didn't have the balls to twist the knife in. There is one guy in British politics who has had the guts to take down a political frontrunner in an open contest... that guy is Ed Miliband, lest we forget. And anyone on the Labour right sniping about Ed needs to remember that Ed would probably never have become leader if any of the people in a position to oust Brown before the election had actually done it... at the end of the day, you have to put up or shut up. And while I have immense sympathy for Darling's plight at the hands of Gordon in 2007-10, both of these guys are just an irritating distraction at a point when the ConDems are trying to destroy the country. And really I should be blogging about the collapsing economy, or the death of the NHS, and I will do... it's just that I'm a junkie for a political spat, sad man that I am.

1 comment:

Hal Berstram said...

Actually to be fair, I guess Dave Cameron had the guts to take down a leadership frontrunner as well (David Davis, in his case). So Ed is in fact the only person in the Labour Party with guts - not the only person across Parliament as a whole.