What goes around, come around

Labour is having another of its very traditional rows about public spending. Chancellor Darling is insisting (as did Snowden in 1931, Gaitskell in 1951, Jenkins in 1968, and Healey in 1976) that a plan for public expenditure reductions be agreed to retain the confidence of the markets. However, this dispute over public spending is different in one way from any of the past 100 years. The Prime Minister is refusing to support his Chancellor. MacDonald wrecked his personal standing to support Snowden; Attlee sided with Hugh Gaitskell; the normally slippery Harold Wilson gave solid backing to Jenkins; and Callaghan stood shoulder to shoulder with Healey. Brown, unlike any of these predecessors, has put himself at the head of the spending rebels. Far from backing his Chancellor in what needs to be done, he forces him to water down his proposals. The reason, of course, is that Brown was personally responsible for creating this disastrous mess. As Chancellor, he spent money as if he really had conquered boom and bust. It is a clear warning that his toxic career path must never be repeated.

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