Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The Late Lunch Briefing

Darling In Circles

You put your left leg in. Your left leg out. In. Out. In. Out. You shake it all about.

What is going on at the Treasury? Are we witnesses the most incompetent Chancellor this country has ever seen? So Non Doms won’t be taxed to the back teeth on foreign income or gains not sent to the UK. In fact, apparently it never was going to tax these people. Oh no, the only reason we ever thought that the Treasury would is because they said so... but that was only because of “careless drafting” of an HM Revenue & Customs consultation paper. Careless drafting? You are supposed to running the most important department of in the country – we cannot be doing with careless drafting... or even worse: dithering!

It is no surprise that Darling has changed his mind on this one. It is reported that the change of heart came following a call from George Osborne for Labour to adopt the Tory plan. The Tories driving Labour’s economic policy? Surely not.

The Wooden Chancellor

Of course this isn’t the first U-turn of the “Wooden Chancellor”, Alastair Darling. We have had Northern Rock and the “will it or won’t it” be nationalised drama (for clarity, right now it won’t be nationalised, though it is unlikely that they will accept the Virgin deal, so it probably will be nationalised, but actually no-one has a clue). There has been inheritance tax u-turns. We’ve had the about turn on Capital Gains tax. This list goes on. When you add all this in to the boiling pot that is economic recession and falling house prices, you have to question how long this born loser has left at No.11.

The press, the city, parliament, they are all full of gossip about how Darling might be moved in a Spring/Summer reshuffle. It is something I suspected at my New Year predictions. Even the most ardent of New Labour supporters who has any interest in the well being of the British economy as an International super-power must be worried about this buffoon running our economy. But will he go?

Party Politics before Economics

The problem with Darling going is that it will inflict serious damage on the government. It will be seen as a major scalp by George Osborne and the Tories. It will be reported as a failure of Gordon Brown’s premiership. It will be seen as a clear sign that the economy is in trouble and will only make the situation less stable, purely on lack of confidence driven by a perception. I fear that Brown will save this numskull purely for political reasons – i.e. to save his government and his own bacon.

A plea to you all

The truth is, in the short term there will be damage. But in the medium to long term it surely can only be good for the government and the country. Things are only going to get worse economically and with such a halfwit in charge of our money it will only be magnified. We need a tough, iron chancellor at No.11 and we need it before things spiral out of control. The only way this can happen, however, is if we all applaud Brown doing getting rid of darling rather than make political capital out of it.

So I make plea right now: all anti-Browns, all Tories and Lib Dems, all anti-Darlings and people with half a brain: applaud when Brown sacks this man, encourage him to do so in fact. Make him feel like it is the greatest decision made since Henry V made a few expert judgments and gave the French a jolly good hiding at Agincourt.

Of course, the Tories are such an excitable lot that they will make Brown look like a complete bonehead if he does sack him – and you can hardly blame the Tories for all this mess anyway. So it looks like Darling is here to stay and free to really mess things up... but we can all still hope.

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