Our one-speech Chancellor Alistair Darling has suddenly made headlines two days running.

On Wednesday came the gripping news that he has installed his cat Sybil in the Downing Street flat which had been a feline-free zone ever since John Major's Humphrey vanished mysteriously after the 1997 election. Suspicion fell on Cherie Blair.

We must wish Sybil better luck.

Then yesterday Mr Darling went public again with an interview in the Daily Telegraph. Like the mortgage lenders who seized on a sharp dip in interest rate swaps to fund cuts in their fixed-rate deals, he spotted an opportunity in the great credit crunch.

Mr Darling's problem is that he cannot blame Gordon Brown. And since Gordon was Chancellor for ten years, just about anything that goes wrong is his fault - but not American sub-prime mortgages and the frauds and follies that went with them.

So there was our new Chancellor sagely proclaiming that it might be no bad thing for the banks to go back to "good old-fashioned banking" and for their customers to borrow no more than they can sensibly expect to repay.

So now we know.

Preachers are against sin. Our new Chancellor is against reckless borrowing.

Well, well. Gordon may not have borrowed recklessly in his post-Prudence phase - Governments don't go bust, though Harold Wilson's had a near miss. But he borrowed so vigorously that he had to shift the goalpost to observe his own "golden rule".

Is Chancellor Darling telling us that is going to stop? Quite possibly. It will be an uncomfortable experience. We shall see how uncomfortable with his Comprehensive Spending Review this autumn. It will flesh out what we know already - that Gordon's great public sector spending splurge is history.

Our new Prime Minister, indeed, went out of his way to deliver a barely coded message to the TUC, that he will face down strikes this winter rather than cave in on public sector pay.

Taxpayers cannot look for mercy either. City bonuses, bank profits and associated financial activities have been a rich source of tax revenues for at least four years.

The credit crunch will put a stop to that. Chancellor Darling will have to raise the money from the rest of us. Remember, too, all the VAT paid by "reckless" credit card holders. That will be missing, too.

Batten the hatches.


The Assets Recovery Agency has just got a court order freezing assets of a pension fund whose members include Brian Meehan and his son-in-law Gerard McAllister, both now doing time for a £54 million "missing trader" VAT fraud.

Good thing, too, if it turns out that money in the fund was obtained criminally.

Still, this is the first time that ARA has got its hands on a pension fund. This one has two other members, and there is no suggestion that they have been involved in criminal behaviour.

ARA cannot actually seize the assets without another court order.

Just the same, if you join a small pension scheme, it is wise to have an idea of how the other members find the money.