The Nationalisation of Northern Rock is so redolent of the 1970s and the failed Socialist experiments with State ownership (with Labour Ministers as the lab technicians and us as the lab rats) that the Town Clerk and the Town Ledger Clerk have been desperately trying to cobble together any other solution for weeks. Now the ditherers have had their hands forced.

Whilst one accepts that the Labour leadership is no longer ideologically committed to the legalized stealing of people’s property (though there are plenty both in government and on the backbenches who have a considerable nostalgia for the idea), this hanging of an albatross around the nation’s neck is no less an example of Socialist economic incompetence.

Nationalization might not have been half so bad if it had been done from day one but by taking five months about it and in the meantime hawking the business around in the desperate hope that someone would save them the embarassment of the ‘N’ word, Brown and Darling have painted themselves into a corner whereby every repossession, every job lost and every mortgage refused threatens Labour’s supposed reputation for economic competence and, by the by, their tenure in a swathe of constituencies in the North-East.

They still have to get the fiat of the European Union, something which may prove problematical, because of the EU’s arrogation to itself of primacy in the field of competition law and practice. If they decide to interfere it might prove a good thing if it is a salutary lesson to a Labour government that is bent on handing ever more power to Brussels in how we are no longer masters in our own house.

Meanwhile the vultures, sensing the presence of a potential corpse, are already circling, ready to swoop down and seize a choice piece for their delectation (and profit).

Brown and Darling at their joint press conference this morning looked for all the world like two little boys who got caught short and peed their pants: for that is what has happened as these two hung on and hung on in the hope that in the hope of a public convenience turning up. But instead of them spending a penny, it may cost as much as £100 billion.

A defining moment? Perhaps. Because it has been spun out over five months it does not have the sheer immediacy or drama of the Tories’ ‘Black Wednesday’ but it is difficult to see it as anything other than a penetrating blow to the guts of Labour’s pretence to economic competence.

But do not lose sight of the role of the Liberal ‘Democrats’ in all this: Vince Cable has been well at it over the months as Sam Coates at the Times’ Red Box so neatly points out. Voters in the North-east who have turned to the Lib ‘Dems’ over recent years would do well to remember that.