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Darling squeezes Balls in a vice

By Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2010-07-25 at 11.24.00 Alistair Darling gave George Osborne an end-of-term present on Marr earlier this morning.  He said that he wished that he'd won Cabinet battles over whether Labour should have committed to raise VAT at the general election. "Yeah, obviously," he said when asked whether he'd like to have won the dispute over the tax, recently revealed by Lord Mandelson.

"It's no secret, I said at the time and since Peter [Mandelson] has actually spelt out in gory detail, I'm not going to deny what was patently true...There's a choice really, you can put up VAT or you can put up an income-related tax which is what the National Insurance is....The advantage of VAT is it brings in a lot of money."

Guess who's been busying campaigning against VAT.  The answer's here.  I pointed out recently that the Shadow Education Secretary had made a bit of a mess of making his case in the Daily Telegraph.  But Balls' argument were illuminating.

He wrote: "I was one of those who privately urged Gordon Brown to make our stance on VAT explicit in our manifesto. I believed that if we made a principled case for ruling out a VAT rise, as well as against premature cuts in public spending, it would change the course of the election. Others disagreed – and ultimately we made no hard commitment on VAT."

I wonder which others he had in mind?  Or what the former Chancellor will have to say about Balls in any memoirs that he may be writing?