Cabinet ministers defend Darling

Cabinet ministers defended Chancellor Alistair Darling today after the Liberal Democrats said he should be sacked for being "caught with his hands in the till".

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg backed a call by his economics spokesman Vince Cable for Mr Darling to be thrown out of 11 Downing Street over expense claims for accountant's fees and switching his second home.

But Mr Darling's office insisted he had done nothing wrong and the pair were accused of descending to "cheap jibes" by Trade Secretary Lord Mandelson.

Mr Cable used his column in the Mail on Sunday to demand the Chancellor's scalp, writing: "Here is the company finance director caught with his fingers in the till.

"He doesn't explain. He doesn't apologise. He just blames his colleagues for not stopping him. His moral authority has vanished. He must go, now. We need a Chancellor focusing on the national accounts rather than his own. There are some urgent economic questions to address."

Joining the demands, Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House: "As Chancellor, Alistair Darling occupies a very special position in Government. He needs to enjoy the public's trust when it comes to issues of financial probity, of money, of managing our nation's finances.

"And given that very unique responsibility that he has, it's simply impossible for him to continue in that role when such very major question marks are being raised about his financial affairs."

Mr Darling was among ministers who paid accountants thousands of pounds of public money to complete their personal tax returns, his own bills coming to £1,400 over two years.

It was also reported by The Daily Telegraph that he "flipped" the location of his second home four times in four years, allowing him to claim thousands of pounds towards the cost of his Edinburgh home and a London flat.

His spokeswoman rejected all claims of wrongdoing by Mr Cable.

"The allegations made by Mr Cable are untrue," she said. "As Mr Darling consistently explained he paid for personal tax advice himself. The accountant's fees claimed were for preparing his office accounts to ensure the correct amount of tax was paid. That's an allowable claim. The accountant's fees were fully declared for tax purposes and he paid tax on the benefit."

She went on: "The allegation that he changed addresses for personal gain is untrue.

"He changed the designation of his second home when his circumstances changed in accordance with the rules. He also pays tax on the benefit of living in Downing Street and pays the council tax there."

Lord Mandelson later hit out at the two senior Liberal Democrats.

"That's pure politicking by Nick Clegg and by Vince Cable, and frankly it's beneath both of them to start hurling around cheap jibes like that," he told BBC Radio 4's T he World This Weekend.

And Climate Change Secretary Ed Balls told Sky News: "I think Alistair Darling was doing absolutely right, I think he complied with all the tax rules."

The row came amid continued speculation that Mr Darling could lose his job in an anticipated cabinet reshuffle by Gordon Brown after what is expected to be a devastating night of European and local polls on Thursday.

Some reports this weekend suggested the popular Mr Cable could be drafted in in a bid to limit the damage to Labour and restore trust in politics - a possibility he firmly dismissed.

Another report suggested Schools Secretary Ed Balls, once Mr Brown's right-hand man at the Treasury, would be promoted in place of Mr Darling.

Asked which of the two he would prefer, Lord Mandelson said: "One thing I would say is that I've worked very well with Alistair Darling, the incumbent Chancellor, and if it is the Prime Minister's choice that I should continue to do so, I'll be very happy to do that."

Mr Cable: "I would not agree to be co-opted into a Labour Government in its dying days. There is not a scintilla of truth in the idea that I might become Chancellor.

"I am part of Nick Clegg's team and that is where I intend to remain. This kind of arrangement might have been possible in the early days of Tony Blair's government, but not now. What we need now is an election."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss