Alistair Darling did not raise his voice just now when he gently made the following point to George Osborne after welcoming him to his post and paying tribute to Stephen Timms, the kindly former Treasury minister who was brutally stabbed during constituency surgery after the election:
The reason unemployment, though high, is down by half compared to the 1980s, and that reposessions are down by half compared to the 1990s, and that borrowing is down, was because the last government — with others — took action that was opposed by the Conservative Party.
Osborne was pleasant in return, paying tribute to Darling, who he said had done his job with “the best of motives”, adding that the Treasury set-up Osborne had inherited was “far more functional and less chaotic” than the one Darling himself had inherited (from Gordon Brown in 2007). But perhaps inevitably, other than a general attack on Labour’s record, he did not answer the question.
Osborne forgot to pay tribute to Timms, but later corrected that.