‘What on earth was Darling talking about?’ – media ask

September 1, 2008

darling.jpgThe media is still confused about the motives behind the Chancellor’s observation that “(the times we’re facing) are arguably the worst they’ve been in 60 years”.

What about the 27 percent inflation and 12 percent unemployment rates the country endured during the 1970s and 1980s, they ask?

The country has not been forced to go to the IMF, cap in hand, as it did in 1976, nor is it 1992 and another Black Wednesday, leader writers point out in Monday’s newspapers.

The problem seemed to be compounded when Alistair Darling was then forced to explain in a series of TV interviews that he was talking about severity of current economic conditions — the global credit crunch and rising commodities prices — rather than predicting a great depression.

“The pity is that the public doesn’t know what to believe or who to trust,” the Daily Mail says.

Darling also frets in the Guardian article on the weekend about the state of the Labour Party, saying the cabinet was partly to blame for its recent electoral woes and poor showing in the opinion polls because it has “patently” failed to explain the party’s central mission to the country.

Was Darling then being honest or foolish, newspaper editorials ask.

One thing it seems certain about is that his comments were “astonishing” and in danger of “over exaggeration”, the Mail adds.

“Instead of talking our economy up — as Chancellors traditionally do in time of trouble — he talked it down, undermining confidence even further,” the Daily Mail says in an editorial on Monday.

The Financial Times believes Darling has his priorities the wrong way around.

“On the economy, his prognosis is too bleak. On Labour, his prognosis is nowhere near bleak enough.

“The government will only make matters worse politically and economically if it overreacts to the downturn.”

It adds: “His precise meaning has been in dispute but it would certainly be nonsense to suggest the UK faces the worst downturn in six decades.”

The Daily Telegraph believes it “shatters the myth that Labour’s stewardship has created economic stability”.

Anatole Kaletsky, writing in the The Times, says Darling has got his figures wrong: “On closer inspection, the Chancellor’s reputation for frankness makes his political blunder worse, since it reveals a flaw more serious than deviousness: basic ignorance of economic facts and figures.

“This is a failing that the minister responsible for national finances can never live down.”

He adds: “There is no way of messaging the facts and figures to make his statement even half-right. Despite all the headlines about a credit crunch, financial conditions are also relatively benign.

“What on earth, then, was Mr Darling talking about?”

The Daily Mail said his comments “seem over the top”.

“As to why, we can only guess. Trying to distance himself from Gordon Brown perhaps?”

Kaletsky adds: “Suppose, then, that the Treasury decides to spin his comments not as a description of what has already happened but as a prediction that Britain will suffer its worst economic crisis since 1948 in the year or two ahead.

“If this was what Mr Darling meant, will anybody believe any economic forecast he presents in his next Budget if this is less than catastrophic?

“And if Mr Darling does present a catastrophic forecast in a pre-election Budget, what will this do to Gordon Brown’s chances of survival?

“These questions can yield only one answer: the next Budget will be presented by a new Chancellor.”


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Maybe the new spin is ‘reverse psychology’ or Darling is emulating the relationship between a naughty child (the electorate, particularly the swinging voters) and that of an over-protective and over-bearing parent (him, GB and New Labour’s PR/BS boffins), i.e., “Things are very, very bad, but if you’re very, very good (please, please vote for us), you’ll be rewarded – don’t you still love us? Aren’t we honest to you?” Or maybe, he’s speaking the truth – Labour really has steered the UK down the drain!

Posted by Simon Drake | Report as abusive

I bet Mr.Darling wished his boss had not sold all our Gold reserves when the market was at bottom price.Gordon Brown was the best chancellor we have had!!Now reality is here for the economy built on quicksands

Posted by Tim Crellin | Report as abusive

They’re all utterly incompetent so I wouldn’t expect anything different. However, there’s definitely been too much “talking up” recently – mainly from estate agents it has to be said – so some of the sober realities, i.e. that things are going to get a heck of a lot worse before they get better, needed to be uttered by somebody. Great Depression? Almost certainly not. Good time to buy a house? Definitely not! Insult your boss and storm out in a huff? Er, perhaps not advisable…

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

I think the reason behind alastair’s comments is simple. There is going to be a major collapse this year, and he knows it. Labour are preparing the country for the worst, so when the worst hits labour can say they warned us.

The reason I say the above is because I get many dreams regarding future events. I have had many dreams for some time regarding an economic collapse. About two weeks ago as I was falling asleep i heard an audible voice say “on September the 18th something bad is going to happen that is going to be really bad for the economy”

I guess a prophet is tested by his/her predictions coming true.

Posted by chris wickland | Report as abusive

A hundred years ago, when I was a national service man,a popular maxim was: “when in danger when in doubt, run in circles scream and shout”. Maybe Alistair Darling has been similarly advised?

Posted by Alan Wolton | Report as abusive

I think Mr Darling is making sure he is not going to take all the blame for the total mismanagement of the country since labour came to power. Perhaps he thinks by telling us the worse case senario that if things are better than predicted by a tiny margin all will be forgiven.

Think again Mr Darling you can fool some of the people all the time but the rest of us arn’t so gulable and we vote!

Posted by Maggie | Report as abusive

Lots of media heads in dark places today, missing the point completely.

Darling is just sticking it to Brown as a spoiling tactic in advance of Brown’s much heralded “recovery plan”.

Darling knows they’re finished and it’s us, not Brown, who will be paying his pension, so what the hell – put the boot in and settle a few old scores.

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive

If Alistair Darling, has such a feeble command of the English language that he has to resort to foul language – p***ed off- to gain attention, what prospect is there that his mathmatical skills will be sufficient to revive the economy?

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

sounds like more phychological games – we might give a stamp duty holiday?? ring a bell
look what effect that had on the property market

muppets in charge – dont they know this isnt monopoly!!

Posted by ig | Report as abusive

Alistair Darling is guilty of one thing only: telling some semblance of the truth. If everyone faced it we might reshape our spending and living habits to accommodate it.

Unfortunately, telling the truth is not in keeping with NuLab’s policy. Brown’s idea is that we go on in total denial on the sliver of a hope that the problem will go away before too many people are made homeless, bankrupt, dying of hypothermia, victims of a failed NHS etc.

Posted by Dane Aubrun | Report as abusive