Saturday, November 15, 2008

 

How Strong is Dave's loyalty to George?

'Too clever by half' was a criticism made of Harold Wilson by LBJ and others in his own party and I wonder if George Osborne is not heading for the same accusation. He is a curious political figure: very boyish, a bit cheeky and, allegedly, ferociously bright. I have met him a couple of times over the past few years and was both charmed and impressed by him.

Until a month or so ago, it seemed as if his star could not cease to rise but commentators are beginning to discern more than just a blip in his trajectory. His suggestion of a £2,6 tax break for business hiring the unemployed was taken apart and diagnosed as suffering from a pretty nasty black hole and, according to the well informed Nicholas Watt, a whispering campaign is in full flow urging his replacement by the talented William Hague.

In an apparent attempt to rout his critics and re-establish his position as Dave's number one number two, he has gone on the attack. In his Times interview today Osborne acccuses Brown of being 'deeply irresponsible' about the amount he is borrowing and pursuing a 'scorched earth' policy in which he lays waste the economy in the knowledge the Tories will have to clear up the mess. Has he taken a step too far, one wonders?

The fact that Brown has borrowed so much is indeed dangerous as it will deter investment and bring down the value of the pound, possibly even cause a run on it into the bargain. Already well under $1.5 and almost par with the euro, the £ could topple into a deeply unpleasant black hole. This is well known. But the convention in British politics is not to 'talk down' sterling at times of danger as this can benefit no-one whether taxpayer or in business. George is now being accused of doing just that by Labour who have alleged:

a panicking George Osborne is trying to talk down the economy in a desperate last throw of the dice to save his career."

The most serious develpment for Osborne,. however, has been the on the record intervetion by Lord Kalms, founder of electronics chain, Dixons and a former Treasurer of the party. He has suggested Osborne is not up to the task and should be replaced by the pugnacious David Davis, someone else who made some serious errors a few months back. So the question buzzing around Westminster right now is whether Cameron will be loyal to his fellow Bullingdonian and Notting Hill buddy, or give way to Osborne's enemies within the Conservative Party. And George has few friends in this organisation. He has streaked upward too rapidly for that but also, it is rumoured, he has offended by loftily criticising collegues for their Commons' performances. One senior Tory recently told me: 'George doesn't speak to us backbenchers- he's like Heseltine in that he thinks he is above such things.'

Comments:
Some of the stuff about Osbourne is pretty desperate. The fake coke pictures, the Bullingdon Club stuff and the hysteria over his very reasonable comments over the collapse of the pound. As someone who earns a dollar linked salary, I am delighted by the feeble state of the UK economy, but his comments about the dangers for sterling/long term economic prospects of running a deficit like this were sound(perhaps a bit close to the nerve for the autistic PM and his useless puppet Chancellor).

My personal opinion is that Hague would be better in this portfolio(sound instincts, good understanding and less desperate to please the liberal gallery), but there is no chance of Dave shifting Osbourne. Sorry to say it, but some of the media just can't get over the fact that he comes from a fancy family. Sad, for it makes them bigots. Inverted snobbery is snobbery nonetheless, and Labour is going to need more than that in 2010. Osbourne is the next Chancellor(and you can quote me on that).
 
Michael
I agree, Cameron will never sack Osborne: too much of an admission of failure but it's obvious knives are out for this fancy young posing politician. I also agree he is odds on- whatever the polls say-to be the next Chancellor after the election.
 
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