Bookmakers have stopped taking bets on Alistair Darling leaving the Treasury.
As pressure grows on the chancellor and Gordon Brown refusing to state Mr Darling’s position is safe, observers now predict his position is not tenable.
The chancellor has attracted criticism over his expenses, although the issue is seen as minor, and a poor showing in local and European elections could see a Cabinet reshuffle as early as Friday this week.
The favourite to take the position is Ed Balls, the schools secretary and former economic secretary to the Treasury under Mr Brown.
“All the money we have been taking for the past 48 hours has been for Darling to be out by the end of the year – and we now believe he could be out by the end of next week,” said William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe.
“We were 9/4 for him to go, at the weekend, then 7/4 at the start of the week but have now closed the market.”
The book on Mr Balls to succeed Mr Darling has also been closed.
If Mr Darling does go, his successor will be charged with having to steer the UK economy through the recession and balance the government’s books.
The autumn pre-Budget report will be the government’s final real attempt to sway voters ahead of an election next year – with the Budget 2010 providing a final rubber stamp on plans.
With tax rises expected and along with spending cuts, the new chancellor will have to put in place plans for tax rises only to hit after the election.
An upswing in the economy at the end of the year and into spring – even if it is short-term – could be expected to be presented success of the government’s stimulus plans.
However, unemployment figures are still expected to rise into 2010, providing greater strain on the government’s finances.
- blog analysis
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