OPINION: Brown can relax over Northern Rock crisis

The most interesting fact about the Northern Rock saga is that neither The Sun or the Daily Mirror 'splashed' the story following Sunday's announcement and the only news programme not to lead with it was GMTV.

Charlie Whelan
Charlie Whelan

This is significant because these news outlets are more in touch with the concerns of 'real' people than, for example, the BBC, which targets the chattering classes. By Tuesday even the Daily Mail had abandoned Northern Rock for 'Philip is a Nazi'.

The BBC got extremely excited about the nationalisation story, which incidentally it, like everyone else, failed to predict. I heard a Today correspondent evoke the memory of 'Red Robbo.'

He was, I presume, referring to my old comrade Derek Robinson, the former trade union convenor of the Longbridge car plant. The fact that BBC presenters felt free to use the language of anti-union rags such as the Daily Mail when discussing Northern Rock shows just how they lost the plot.

The same cannot be said for Alastair Darling. By making his announcement on Sunday before it was leaked, he at least fought the media on his terms. Cameron calling for his head ensures Darling stays - indeed, the Tories were so over the top in their attacks on the Chancellor that they united the Labour ranks in vocal support.

There is no-one else in the Cabinet that could face the onslaught he has had to endure and he will stay because Gordon Brown will remain steadfastly loyal.

Now I am certainly not one to say that the nationalisation of Northern Rock isn't a problem for the Government but it does not materially affect many voters. It is for this reason that Brown will be reasonably relaxed, even if he never wanted the nationalisation.

The PM has been helped by the failure of the main opposition to come up with anything other than opportunist petty point scoring. The real opposition has come from the Lib Dems and it is they who will be fighting the Tories in the marginal seats at the next election.

The Tories can bleat about the 1970s as much as they like but do they think that resonates with voters today? No, it does not, and what they would prefer is an opposition they could trust to run the economy. So far only Vince Cable fits the bill.

What Number 10 really feared on Monday was people queuing outside Northern Rock looking to take money out of the nationalised bank. Actually by the middle of the week some banks' shares were soaring. I do not know about you but I'm putting some cash into Northern Rock, where it will be as safe as the Bank of England.

Email: charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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