Some gems in this morningâs Sunday Times Â£paywall edition of the Alastair Darling book âBack from the Brinkâ
In the aftermath of this crisis many have claimed authorship of what proved to be a highly successful plan. Gordon and I had earlier discussed the idea of forcing banks to raise capital, and of us providing it if necessary. He was immediately open to the idea and he did tell me, when I outlined it to him, that he and his advisers had been thinking along similar lines.
Isnât the Chancellor of the Exchequer supposed to be the Prime Ministerâs advisor on financial matters? Who could he mean? Who was the whisper in the corner?
If Gordon and I had been in business, I suspect we would have agreed at this point that it was best to part company immediately; but itâs not that simple in government.
At the time, I felt I was fighting on two fronts: one in the Treasury to speed up the complex stabilisation scheme it was working on; the other with an angry prime minister, whose lack of control over the Treasury made him suspicious that it was an instrument of opposition to his will. This was a view that some of his advisers in No10 seemed only too happy to foment.
Itâs those âadvisorsâ againâ¦
Worse than that, I was aware that some of his advisers had opened up a separate channel to the banks with which we were negotiating. I could never prove who was behind this, but it was clear that some of the senior bankers had a direct line to No 10. They seemed remarkably well informed of Treasury plans and thinking. The banks tried to get better terms for themselves. At times, some in No10 appeared to be arguing the banksâ case with the Treasury.
The autonomy that Gordon had demanded for himself when Chancellor seems to have become a problem when he appointed someone else Chancellorâ¦..
The picture of Darling walking along the shore reminds me of the ditty I penned long ago â strangely prescient in hindsightâ¦
The snow was falling on the land,
The country iced-up tight:
Old Cyclops did his best to make
Pronouncements dour and trite.
And this was odd, because tâwas thought
The Backbone âad taken flight.
The Backbone was quietly sulking,
Because she thought the Balls
Had got no business to be there
After her Peer-age was wonâ
âItâs very cruel of him,â she said,
âTo come and spoil my fun!â
The debts were high as high could be,
The coffers dry as dry.
You could not see a future, because
Old Labour told a lie:
No debts would ever be repaidâ
Tâwas all just âpie in skyâ.
The Backbone and his Darling
Were walking hand in hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of debt:
âIf this were only cleared away,â
They said, âWouldnât it be grand!â
âWith Cyclops gone, and Balls deposed,
And Millipede in the Chair,
Do you suppose,â the Backbone said,
âThat we could get it clear?â
âI doubt it,â said the Darling,
And shed a bitter tear.
âOld Labour! Come Unite with me!â
Old Cyclops did beseech.
âMy pleasant dream, that pleasant dream,
Of glory in this land:
Hoon nâHewitt say that I must go,
Who will, to me, a lifeline throw?â
The Millipede looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The Backbone winked his eye,
And shook his well groomed headâ
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the Coup he led.
But four young Ministers hurried up,
All eager for a treat:
Their views were changed, their minds made up,
Their careers were rearranged,
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadnât any brains.
Four other Ministers followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and moreâ
All chattering through the airwaves,
And scrambling to the fore.
So Cyclops and his Backbone
Ruled on a month or so,
And then they rested on their morals
And all the little Voters stood
And waited in a row.
âThe time has come,â New Labour said,
âTo talk of many things:
Of banksâand taxesâand our soaring debtâ
Of VATâand thingsâ
And why the Voters love us notâ
And whether pigs have wings.â
âBut wait a bit,â the Voters cried,
âAn election, if we could;
For some of us are jobless,
And on voting we are keen!â
âNo hurry!â said Old Cyclops.
They cursed him much for that.
âA load more money,â New Labour said,
âIs what we chiefly need:
Donations are all well and good
But âMore taxes!â if we could,
Now if youâre ready, Voters dear,
We can begin to bleed.â
âBut not from us!â the Voters cried,
Turning a Conservative-ish hue.
âAfter such a battering, that would be
A dismal thing to do!â
âThe futureâs fine,â Old Cyclops said.
âMy Ministers have supported Me!â
âIt was so kind of you to speak!
And quell the coup that rose this week!â
The Backbone said nothing but
âMore power, please, another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deafâ
Iâve had to ask you twice!â
âIt seems a shame,â the Backbone said,
âTo play Bankers such a trick,
After weâve bailed them out so far,
And made them rich so quick!â
The Darling said nothing but
âTheir bonusâ make me sick!â
âI weep for you,â the Darling said:
âI deeply sympathise.â
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those with the largest rise,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
âO Voters!,â said Old Cyclops,
âYouâve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be voting Me again?â
But answer came there noneâ
And this was scarcely odd, because
Heâd pissed off everyone.