First with the European Election looming* there is the bad news for Darling that just is the IMF predictions against him but also those of the European Commission. Following on from his shock prediction of the UK shrinking by only 0.9% by the end of the year (after a late autumnal harvest so we are told) the Commission has adjusted its EU growth prediction downwards from -2% to -4%. Their prediction for the UK would equate to a 3.5% contraction not the 0.9% boldly proclaimed from the ballot box last month. However, there is a little good news for Darling next year. Where he expects a 1.25% growth the Commission is also sees it in the black, though only by 0.1%. In other words despite what the Chancellor expects we'll not be heading out by the end of 2009 but just starting to peek out by the end of 2010.
Elsewhere in the Scotsman another nail appears to have been brewing in Scottish Labour since the death of Donald Dewar. In an extract printed from Hamish Macdonell's forthcoming book Uncharted Territory: The Story of Scottish Devolution 1999-2009 he points out that the anointing in 2000 of the successor to the initial First Minister was carried out at the wake in Kelvingrove Art Galleries when he says:
"with the Scottish Labour Party leaderless for more than a week, it was inevitable that the gathering would be used for political purposes too.
"By that time it had become clear that McConnell would be McLeish's only real challenger.McConnell worked the room as subtly as he could, in the circumstances, as did McLeish.
"The prime minister did not stay for long but the short time he was there was hugely significant.
"Word reached McLeish that the prime minister wanted to speak to him, and his wife Julie, before he left.
"McLeish was ushered forward, with Julie just behind. Blair shook McLeish by the right hand, put the other hand on his shoulder and spoke a few words before disappearing.
"McLeish's aides beamed. McConnell was at the other end of the room and the prime minister was gone. It was clear that, in that moment, the prime minister had anointed his choice as Scottish Labour leader and the man he favoured as Scotland's second first minister."
With the current squaring up of Blairites and Brownites on the national stage there is for Labour no arm from a kingmaker to be extended, but then the King though dead is just not yet been placed in a coffin. With Kinnock bigging up the BNP as there is nothing to big up in his own party that could fight off their worries, and with the head of the two camps still at logger heads where is the John Smith like steady hand and head. I for one don't see it.
Man the lifeboats and hoist the red flag!
*Register to vote by May 19th if you haven't already (that is my sub -agenty bit done for today).