Do you, Dear Reader, listen to the BBC’s Today programme at all? I try to when I can, and you should too. It’s not every day I get to listen, but this morning was one of those rare occasions.
As you would expect, with the Irish bailout finally being confirmed by a very fragile-looking Irish government, the Today programme had George Osborne on. I always enjoy listening to Osborne being interviewed. There’s usually a very high chance of good comedy value as he squirms out of some hole or other, trying to defend the indefensible.
This morning, Gideon was not big on comedy but I was in awe of his ability to talk total b*****ks in an utterly convincing way. A skill, unfortunately, that there is no real shortage of in the House of Commons. Today’s twaddle was partly to do with what he said and partly what was omitted.
The part that was said was Osborne’s attack on Alistair Darling agreeing to sign up to the European bailout fund on Britain’s behalf. The current chancellor said the following:
There is a smaller EU mechanism, what is called the European Union mechanism. I wasn’t particularly happy that Britain signed up to that. That was my predecessor Alistair Darling who did that.
But we are part of it and really now is not the time, when we are dealing with the very real practicalities of the Irish situation, to try and pull ourselves out of that. What I’m saying is that when we look at the permanent bailout mechanism let us make sure Britain is not part of that because we are not part of the euro, and the euro, in the end, has to work out how it is going to deal with these sort of situations in the future.
So George tells the world, or at least that part of the world listening to the Today programme that Britain being in the bailout fund isn’t his fault, guv’nor, it’s Darling’s fault. It was all down to Bad Al.
The part Osborne
sneakily decides mistakenly happens to omit is that, while Alistair Darling did indeed sign up to the bailout fund, he did it on the 9th of May 2010. That may not immediately seem important, but it is. The reason it’s important is that it was 3 days after the general election.
Darling attended the EU finance ministers meeting because a new government had yet to be formed at that point. Even though a new government was still not formed, Darling knew Labour had not won the election and, as such, knew he couldn’t take any unilateral decisions.
Therefore, he made a point of running all the proposals past Osborne, who was in negotiations with Clegg, Cable and Laws at the time. Osborne had the opportunity to veto all Darling’s decisions and didn’t bother. Rob Wilson wrote in 5 Days To Power:
Osborne was called out of the talks to take a call from the chancellor, Alistair Darling, who was in Brussels with his European counterparts having talks about Greece and the potential financial rescue package. The chancellor called to ensure that Osborne was in agreement with his negotiating position, which was to try to keep the UK out of the main European rescue package.
Darling had not expected to be chancellor on the Sunday and clearly did not have much confidence that he would be continuing in his role. Osborne informed him that there could be only one chancellor at a time and that he should make his own judgments and he would either support or criticise them depending on his view.
So Alistair Darling gave Osborne the opportunity to veto the agreement and Osborne ignored his fiscal responsibility to put more pressure on Gordon Brown. And now George is more than happy to blame his predecessor while quietly ignoring the fact he had the chance to do something about it and didn’t bother.