Darling and Brown respond to critics

Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling hit back at their critics today, urging people to judge the government on how it responds to crises and not the volume of negative headlines which have surrounded the Brown-Darling team.

The prime minister said people should remember many of crises faced by the government were beyond ministers’ control.

Appearing before reporters at Downing Street, Mr Brown insisted the public should be impressed with the speed with which his government responds to problems.

His chancellor reiterated the message, arguing governments will never succeed in avoiding the unexpected and should be judged on how they respond to difficulties when they arrive.

Addressing business leaders at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Mr Darling said: “That response must be open and measured; perhaps not always the stuff of headlines but certainly the best basis of solutions.”

The pair were both speaking in public as the Labour party faces new questions over its competency.

The donor scandal has seen the “sleaze” tag – last invoked by Tony Blair to oust the Major government – attach itself to Mr Brown’s administration.

This compounds the loss of personal details belonging to 25 million child benefit claimants, questions over the government’s handling of Northern Rock, the foreign workers security breach and aborted autumn election.

In the early days of his premiership Mr Brown was praised for his handling of unexpected disasters, notably the failed London and Glasgow terror strikes, flooding and foot-and-mouth outbreak.

In his monthly press conference today, Mr Brown sought to reclaim the mantel of doer.

The prime minister said he was happy to be judged on the problems his government had faced, arguing people would look back “and see these problems were dealt with in a way that was efficient and that was rapid”.

He told reporters: “People should look at speed with which we deal with things beyond our control.”

He rejected claims ministers and senior officials had not been held accountable for a series of failings, saying the government could only be held responsible for policy.

Mr Brown said: “What I have to do is deal with issues as they arrive. You cannot look at events and say I as prime minister was directly responsible.”

Instead, he said, he focused on taking the long-term view, making difficult decisions. Resolving the issues and moving forward.

After the Liberal Democrats repeated calls yesterday to nationalise the Northern Rock bank, Mr Darling also directly dealt with his critics.

He told business leaders today the Treasury had faced a choice between propping up the bank or letting it collapse.

The consequences of the latter option would have been “extremely damaging,” he claimed.

He said the government had been right to intervene and right to guarantee savers’ deposits.