The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Britain's Finance Minister, is an enigmatic figure. Alistair Darling has established himself as a managerial technocrat, of the type much favoured by the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, yet he also managed to retain a working relationship with Gordon Brown- the the point that Brown trusted him enough to hand over the Finance Ministry to Darling upon his elevation to Number 10.
His public image is dominated by his grey hair and seemingly grey personality- hence his nickname of the Badger. This seemingly buttoned-up Morningside personality has, however, been making statements that are so emotional that they show a man at the end of his tether.
Spending some part of his holiday on the Western Isles with a Guardian journalist might be seen as an error of judgement, were it not so carefully judged. His complaints that he no longer gets back to Edinburgh, nor goes to the Cinema suggest a man firmly buried by work pressure. What really shows this though, is the fact that he has lost all sense of proportion.
It is extremely arguable that the current financial crisis is a bad one, but it is highly questionable as o whether it is bad as 1981 or even the 1970s. To suggest as the chancellor has now done that the financial crisis is the worst in 60 years is probably hyperbole. Even if it were not, it is foolhardy for the Chancellor to express his worries quite so candidly.
Business and the financial system rests on confidence. For the Chancellor to be so gloomy about Britain's economic situation undermines confidence. In short, by his public musings Mr. Darling is helping to create the prospect that he most fears.
Gordon Brown may wish to continue the wasteful profligacy that has undermined the financial health of the country, but by so public a jeremiad the Chancellor also demonstrates his lack of confidence in the Prime Minister's policies.
It is quite clear that he should leave office as soon as possible- he does not understand what he is doing and can only inflict further damage by staying.