Leader: Election build-up

BRACE yourselves, folks, there's an election on the way – and it's already being fought on our doorsteps.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, no less, has fired the starting pistol with a broadside against the city council.

It has "completely mismanaged" the school closures programme, says Alistair Darling. The SNP and Lib Dem coalition is "divided". He adds: "They don't seem to have a grip of what's going on."

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There's no doubt that Mr Darling will be speaking for many – of whatever political colours – who are unhappy with the council's performance.

The queue he has just joined includes parents of pupils at the four primary schools scheduled for closure, plus those whose wait goes on for much-needed improvements at city secondaries.

Residents outside the city centre might agree with the Chancellor's jibe of incompetence too, if they are among the thousands of householders whose bins have not been emptied since the cold snap started before Christmas.

You can be sure that some of the council's own staff would add their voice after the News revealed yesterday that a 90 million black hole meant that 700 jobs would go by April, while all 20,000 workers have been invited to apply for an extra week's holiday – without pay.

We will never know if any of these people would have had less to complain about under a Labour-led council. But that's politics, and it ill behoves the parties in power at the City Chambers to complain about it.

Leader Jenny Dawe is perfectly within her rights to point out that Mr Darling might be taking a more acute interest in Edinburgh in the next few months because his own seat is being targeted by the opposition parties.

She makes some valid points about the difficulties of being in power and how tough decisions have to be made – such as the closure of much-loved, but inefficient schools.

It just adds to the knockabout for her to hit back by calling Mr Darling a "whinger".

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Does she really expect us, however, to believe that the Lib Dems – and especially the SNP – would be any less vocal in its criticism if they were in opposition?

Ask one who knows: the Chancellor, after all, must have a hide like an elephant's after the barbs he has faced in the last year.

Those who enjoy the circus that is politics can revel in it all; but for the rest of us it is going to be a depressingly long few months to the election.