Darling's Dilemma

Speak up or shut up?

Point out, speak out Point out, speak out
Our Chancellor, Alistair Darling, see right, has got himself into a spot of bother and all because of what he said in the Guardian, see HERE. Normally very generous to Nulabour heavies, the paper was rewarded with a quote or two which may in time, so we are told, come back to haunt him. But why? Was what Darling said a remark too far or is it the endorsement of what the man-in-the-street, 'our man', had known for ages? Namely that the UK economy is not in rude health now and it could get worse. If it is the latter then what we are not told, is why Darling lags behind 'our man' in terms of perception and speaking out; is Darling afraid and if so of what? If it is the former, a remark too far and so the classic gaffe, then 'our man' will wonder if Darling's honesty will cost him his job. After all 'our man' is worried about keeping his job, so why not have doubts about Darling keeping his job too? The chances are that those remarks are not one man's moment of madness and will not be forgotten. So how do other countries and their politicians square this circle, speak out or keep quiet?
Safe pair of hands?Safe pair of hands?
Late last year the French Finance Minister, Christine Lagard, see right, hinted that France was in a bad way economically and she kept her job. Mind you she was in good company, the French Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, suggested France was 'bankrupt' and he too is still in post. Another Frenchman, Jean-Claude Trichet, independent of the French government but the president of the European Central Bank, implied that France was a 'basket case' and he too is still employed. Have you forgotten all of that? Well Ambrose Evans-Pritchard sums it all up HERE. Look again at the date of the Evans-Pritchard article, the 3rd of October 2007, so France was well ahead of the curve there and yes Darling does seem to be moving at glacial speed when it comes to getting clued up and then speaking up. For in October last year Darling, no doubt being egged on by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, was still telling us that all was fine and dandy for the UK.

Then a couple of weeks ago Spain took its turn to speak out. The Spanish economy has for a long time looked like an accident waiting to happen, the world waited and yes, it happened. Death in the afternoon came neither to the bull nor the bullfighter but to the builder and the banker. For it was the great Spanish tradition of relentless and machismo property development that after putting up a good fight fell to the ground. And like the real thing it was a bit gruesome with US banking giant Morgan Stanley reporting that it was worried about the health of the wounded Spanish banking system. Again Ambrose Evans-Pritchard sums it all up HERE.
Surprised and shocked Surprised and shocked
Spain's Minister for Economic Affairs, Pedro Solbes, see right, though a little quicker than Alistair Darling to speak out is, it would seem, still surprised and taken aback by what has happened to the Spanish economy as a result of the wider world crisis. This is odd as any casual visitor to Spain in the last 20 years could see it coming. You did not have to be a holidaying builder or a banker to have doubts about the Spanish addiction to property development, much of it of dubious quality and value. Spain was all set to become shanty-town on steroids. Perhaps the Spanish property crash is a blessing in disguise and a lesson for the UK.

The fact is, in true Nulabour style, Alistair Darling told some of the truth but not all and was too slow to speak up. It is also true that Darling and Brown could find themselves in opposition, not government, due to their collective errors quite soon. Darling should not be blamed for more than his share of the mess, as it was Brown who built the foundations of the UK economy so is responsible for any cracks that might appear.

So what is interesting is how honest and up-front the French can be about their woes while here in the UK a mix, it would seem, of shyness and stupidity from our politicians on reporting the same problem is tolerated. The Spanish? Well according to Evans-Pritchard -

The vultures are starting to circle around the hapless Mr Solbes. Critics are calling for his head, accusing him of covering up the true scale of the downturn before the re-election of the Socialists in March. This seems unfair. Mr Solbes continued to dismiss warnings of a crisis as "enormously exaggerated" long afterwards. He appears to be genuinely astounded by what has occurred.
Man in the street Man in the street
Back to the man-in-the-street, see right, he is far ahead of our politicians and some from other countries too. He would like to be told the truth and without delay. Also he is increasingly ambivalent about the EU which is at the root of this financial crisis as shown in the links.'Our man' could, in time, blame the EU as well as our UK government if he lost his job and house; no wonder he was denied a chance to vote on the Lisbon Treaty/Constitution.