Darling's banker bashing

Former chancellor attacks the bankers as "arrogant and stupid" in new extracts from his memoir.

More extracts from Alistair Darling's memoir, due out next Wednesday, have leaked onto Labour Uncut, and today we get his view of Fred Goodwin and co. "My worry," writes Darling, "was that they (the bankers) were so arrogant and stupid that they might bring us all down".

The former chancellor reportedly lambasts Goodwin's response to the crisis as that of someone "off to play a game of golf", concluding that the former RBS boss "deserved to be a pariah". Elsewhere, Darling describes Andy Hornby, the former chief executive of HBOS, as "looking like he was about to explode" when confronted with the full scale of what had happened on his watch. According to Labour Uncut's Atul Hatwal, the former chancellor will also attack a lack of gratitude for the bailout that was "as shocking as it was stupid".

What makes Darling's intervention politically notable is that it comes so soon before the publication of the Vickers report on banking. As the Lib Dems fight for the introduction of a strict ring-fence between banks' retail and investment arms, Darling's attack on the avarice of the City won't do their cause any harm.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.