Frank Field MP
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Doing the splits

Acres of newsprint and hours of media time have been taken in discussing Alistair Darling's revelations on the Jeff Randall show on Monday. The BBC's political editor, for example, suggested that the Chancellor was demob happy. Whatever the results of the General Election he thought Alistair Darling's time at the Treasury was now limited.

I think there is a much more plausible explanation. When the Prime Minister last shuffled his Cabinet he was intent on putting Ed Balls into the Treasury.

But that re-shuffle was done at a point of weakness for the Prime Minister. Ministers were resigning and, if the media reports are to be believed, Alistair Darling insisted that he stay at the Treasury - or he too would quit the Government.

What surprised me was how ‘easily' he rolled over with respect to the content of his Pre Budget Report, towards the end of last year.

How we deal with our mega debt issue is now the prism through which all political issues must be viewed.

The titanic struggle between the Prime Minister and Chancellor resulted in the Prime Minister greatly moderating the serious message on cuts. Some of their details should have been published in the Pre Budget Report.

Now wind fast forward to last Monday. My guess is the Prime Minister is again doing his heavy treatment on the Chancellor trying to ensure a pre election Budget.

The Chancellor, above all people, is strategically placed to know that if such a dish were to be served up to the bond markets there could be a sterling crisis and a failure to sell an ever-increasing number of tranches of government debt.

So, unlike the BBC political editor, I don't for one moment think the Chancellor is demob happy. I think he has recovered the steeliness he showed at the last reshuffle. My guess is there will be increasing tension between Nos. 10 and 11 Downing Street right up to the presentation of the Budget itself - and then beyond.
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