Since the era of Alistair Campbell, probably the most interesting Propaganda Minister since April 1945, it has become almost impossible to believe in coincidence. Thus in the light of the news about Northern Rock having to be given emergency lending facilities by the Bank of England, we can read Alistair Darling’s interview with the Daily Telegraph yesterday with a more practised eye than perhaps we might have done ten years ago.

It is inconceivable that the first Darling heard of the Northern Rock’s problems was after he had done his piece for the Telegraph, so one must view his censuring of the banks for taking unwise risks with their lending not at face value but as the work of a man who was busily watching his back and, more importantly, the vulnerable back of his fellow Scots MP Gordon Brown, lest someone should decide to try and blame the former Chancellor for having allowed mortgage lending and credit in general to get out of control. This was a classic example, you may think, of a man getting his ‘retaliation’ in first.

The problem with this approach is that we are now wise to the ways of how this particularly dishonest set of ministers operates. Whilst there may be truth in what he says, one tends now to discount it in the light of events and assume that he is simply telling whoppers in order to deflect attention from himself and his boss and their role in the crisis.

Ten years ago the public might well have been expected to swallow this sort of thing without a murmur but, once bitten twice shy, so we now look askance at Ministers who give exculpatory explanations for events even before the events themselves have happened. So now the hard questions will be asked and will not go away: is this just down to improvident and irresponsible banks lending willy nilly? Or is the Government in general and Gordon Brown, its long-standing Chancellor who presided over the credit boom of the Blair years, in particular to blame for having encouraged this credit explosion, upon the back of which some of the economy’s ostensible well-being has been built?

You may be sure that Macavity is at this very moment planning to leave the building, leaving only the Darling cat Sybil in situ to take the blame for all the mice that live in No 10 and the Treasury.

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