What a poor performance by Alastair Darling. He has to go. His department has lost two disks containing 25 million records including bank details, NI numbers, DoBs and addresses. A fraudster’s cook book. George Osborne’s reply to Darling’s speech was measured and I thought delivered brilliantly. He laid out his questions in a list that read like a damning summary of the whole debacle. But such is politics and political reputations that it is not the crisis that defines a man it is how he responds to it. Unfortunately at the most important moment in Darling’s career he failed to deliver. In fact he stumbled and mumbled over his defence in such a pitiful manner that for a moment you might have felt sorry him... until you remember this is the man who is responsible for our cash and has mislaid 25 million personal details.
If Osborne was precise and measured in his attack, Vince Cable went straight for jugular. He made Darling look like the bungling fool that he is determined to portray himself as. Even Sian Simon’s sycophantic attempt at making the Chancellor look good worked against poor Darling.
If this isn’t the end of Darling, it is the beginning of the end. How he can ride this and the Northern Rock crisis out in tandem, I do not know. There is some criticism as to why Darling waited 10 days to come clean, I have had a small debate with Matt Wardman over this and while he is pushing it with the ten days, I don’t think it is a particularly long time to have waited. At least he mobilised the banks and police in this time. Why he waited four days to tell the police, however, I am not so sure.
It is one disaster after another right now for the government and Darling is looking like he will be the first to pay the price. In fact, given that Paul Gray has done the honourable thing I think Darling should be obliged to follow.