The interview in today's Times with Chancellor Alistair Darling is extraordinary for its candor regarding spending cuts; he is clearly emboldened by Brown's current weakness and has no problem with completely contradicting Brown's earlier dividing line of "Labour investment versus Tory cuts":
“The next spending review will be the toughest we have had for 20 years . . . to me, cutting the borrowing was never negotiable. Gordon accepts that, he knows that.”Darling is, of course, only stating the bleeding obvious; the need for cuts and addressing the UK deficit is as obvious as it is imperative. For Brown to try to pretend otherwise is deluded and dishonest. The Cabinet are not hiding their frustration with Brown's tactics.
The problem though is the closer we get to the election the less weak Brown will be, because the chances of further plots against his leadership will diminish accordingly. I can't envisage Brown taking Darling's message about cuts into an election. Brown has a pathological hatred of the Tories, it would be against everything he believes in to agree with the Tories on the need for public service cuts.
He also is well known for micromanaging, and while it's not possible to micromange an election it won't stop Brown trying. I sense further bloody internal battles ahead, especially when the danger of another leadership challenge has passed, I suspect Brown and Balls will try to regain control of the election strategy; all those promises made now will be disregarded, like they were last June. The control of election strategy now looks set to be a fight to death between Darling and Mandelson on one side and Brown and Balls on the other.
The Tories must be absolutely delighted, not only does this vindicate their own 'need for cuts' message (although they've yet to spell out in detail how this will happen) but it's further proof that Brown is incapable of leading his Cabinet let alone the country. Campaign slogans are writing themselves.
It's not in the bag yet for the Tories, however, they still have an uphill task to win the General Election. They need 2 million more votes just to draw level on seats, and they need to win 117 seats in the next election to gain an overall majority of one, and 140 seats to win a 'working majority'. This will require at least a swing of 6.9% to the Tories – the biggest swing in 60 years.
Labour are doing their very best to help them though.
And lest we forget: