We're Facing the Worst Economic Crisis for 60 Years, Admits Darling; Alistair Darling: Challenged by Angry Motorists

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Lea

ALISTAIR Darling gave an astonishingly bleak assessment of the economic crisis facing Britain last night.

The Chancellor warned that it will be 'more profound and long lasting' than anyone expected.

And in an admission of Labour's failure to manage the downturn, he conceded voters were 'p***** off'.

The Chancellor said the country was on the brink of 'arguably the worst' financial conditions for 60 years. His diagnosis will cause significant damage to Gordon Brown's hopes of a political fightback with measures designed to help families meet soaring mortgage, food and fuel costs.

Mr Darling admits he had no idea how serious the credit crunch would become. He really became aware of the scale of the problem during a holiday abroad, when he read a newspaper report about the European Central Bank pouring billions into the money market.

'We've got our work cut out,' he says in an interview with the Guardian. 'This coming 12 months will be the most difficult 12 months the Labour party has had in a generation.

We've got to rediscover the zeal which won three elections, and that is a huge problem. People are p***** off with us.

'In ten months we've gone from a position where people generally felt we were doing OK to where we're certainly not doing OK.

'The next 12 months are critical.

It's still there to play for.' Mr Darling revealed that he has been challenged while filling up his own car by motorists demanding to know how he plans to improve the situation.

He said: 'People think, well surely you can do something - you are responsible - so of course it reflects on me.' A waiter also deterred him from ordering a second bottle of wine during a restaurant meal with friends because it could look like he was pushing the boat out while others faced ever-tighter budgets.

The Chancellor has used similar language before, but the timing of this intervention is significant.

Mr Brown hopes to return to the political fray next week with an economic package to show voters he is trying to ease their burden.

Now they are more likely to believe a defeatist attitude has set in at the Treasury.

Mr Darling also predicted there will be no leadership challenge to Mr Brown and suggested he is not planning an imminent Cabinet reshuffle. 'You can't be chopping and changing people that often,' he said. …