Gordon Brown tried to make a point of praising his chancellor in the present tense at PMQs just now – to make up for unfortunate lack of support a few days ago. The suggestion seems to be that Alistair Darling may not be destined for the reshuffle guillotine after all.*
But there was still one lapse into the past tense.
“What the chancellor is achieving, the chancellor is leading the world, he is taking us out of recession, has taken action which the Conservative party refused to support.”
Listening to the prime minister today I was reminded of how vital the banking crisis was to Mr Brown’s narrative. While Lehman Brothers was collapsing and the UK government was rescuing Northern Rock, RBS, HBOS, Bradford & Bingley (etc etc) the PM could portray himself as an action figure. With some justification.
The last few months, however, have been a period of peace at the Treasury. You might imagine that was a good thing. But in terms of Mr Brown’s reputation the calm after the storm is dangerous.
It means his attempts to claim he is focussed on nothing but the economy (in between calling Piers Morgan about Susan Boyle of course) are less credible than before.
* The theory goes like this. Darling has refused to go to the Home Office. He wouldn’t accept a demotion to another ministerial office such as communities secretary. That would leave the prospect of Darling on the backbenches where he could be a serious threat to his former comrade. So maybe he will…after all….remain where he is.