Much talk of whether Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling is going to last much longer. Alan Duncan, on Question Time last night, surmised that he probably couldn't stay, and media comment follows a line being taken by Peter Oborne in the Mail that he really is damaged goods.
Darling doesn't really seem up to the job, but as is so ofetn the case in politics he suffers from bad luck, being handed the headship of the Treasury at a time when several chickens were busy coming home to roost. Northern rock merely exemplifies other problems, but it is true that Darling's hesitant - and costly - response over it has merely seen his reputation ditch further. Many of the problems he is dealing with could be attributed to his illustrious predecessor, and it is as an air-raid shelter that Gordon Brown probably finds him most useful. Nonetheless, in politics luck is nearly everything, and Darling doesn't have it. Speculation about his successor centres on Ed Balls, the current Schools Minister and member of the elite Brown inner circle. Balls is an appalling centraliser, and the world of schools would be well rid of him. It would in fact be a rather nice irony to see him in post at the Treasury, where he previosuly wielded huge influence as Brown's adviser, and watch him deal with the mess he left. It would, incidentally, also mean that his wife, Yvette Cooper, would have to be moved to a new job - she is currently the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.