Archive for the 'George Osborne' Category


Why Labour has its concerns about the Tory turmoil

Monday, March 21st, 2016


Donald Brind says a big REMAIN victory remains the objective

They do things different in Battersea. The local Labour party invited along the Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn for a fundraising fish and chip supper to launch the formal start of the London election campaign. Then they promptly turned the lights out.

The environmentally savvy Battersea Labourites were taking part in Earth Hour a an international initiative that encourages “individuals, communities households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol for their commitment to the planet”. The hour fell right in the middle of the fundraiser

Benn happily performed and received what he said was his first ever candlelit standing ovation.

Benn is spearheading the Labour Remain campaign along with Alan Johnson and he provided an eloquent statement of the case for membership for EU membership. As well as talking about jobs and living standards he recalled visits to the war graves in northern France. He made passing reference to Iain Duncan Smith, toasting the former Work and Pensions Secretary’s friendly fire on Tory economic policies, which will provide material for thousands of Labour leaflets and press releases.

The following day Benn’s colleague, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell on Radio Five and Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham on Sky sought to switch the focus to the Chancellor George Osborne. McDonnell called for him to “scrap the budget and start again” and Burnham said “It is the Chancellor who should be considering his position today” – code for resignation.

    Labour expected the referendum to cause trouble for the Tories but they can hardly believe their luck at how much damage has been done so quickly – even if there is caution over the first poll lead since Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

At first glance it might be expected that Labour would want the Tory turmoil to continue as long as possible – up to and beyond the referendum date. That might mean the perfect result for Labour would be a narrow victory for Remain, guaranteeing months, if not years, of Tory strife.

Hilary Benn’s Battersea speech dispelled such calculations. It was clear that he believes the largest possible margin for Remain is profoundly in the national interest.

Most Labour MPs won’t share platforms with the Tory Remain campaigners – to do so would be counterproductive in winning over Labour supporters and getting them to turn out and vote. But they are on the same side of the argument as Cameron and his Cabinet allies. There is dismay at the impact of the Budget fiasco on credibility of the Tory Remain campaign.

Osborne is damaged goods. There may have been an element of ritual about the call for his resignation. But that will become a more urgent demand if he continues to be a liability to the campaign for continued EU membership.

So Cameron’s role will be more crucial than ever and he will need even greater support for Labour than he envisaged. The is both a challenge and an opportunity for Labour. It is in the party and the country’s interest that Benn et all don’t fluff it.



The Tories are very lucky the Lib Dems didn’t accept George Osborne’s coupon deal

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

British politics today might have been very different if the Lib Dems had accepted Osborne’s deal

The Mail on Sunday are serialising the memoirs of David Laws, the former Liberal Democrat cabinet minister, in it he reveals that

The Tories secretly tried to form a 2015 Election pact with the Lib Dems to keep the Coalition going, according to David Laws.

He says George Osborne proposed a so-called ‘coupon election’ deal with the Lib Dems, whereby up to 50 Tory MPs would have been written off, ordered to make way for Lib Dems.

If the deal had gone ahead, Clegg would still be in Downing Street in a ‘Coalition Mark II’.

And it would have made David Cameron’s outright victory last May impossible. Osborne told Laws: ‘We should be thinking of a deal in 2015 where we don’t fight each other in our key seats… a ‘coupon Election’.

‘We wouldn’t stand in places like Taunton and Wells and you wouldn’t stand in some of our marginal seats.’

Laws and Clegg turned the deal down because the Lib Dems would be seen as Tory ‘lapdogs’ – and it could spark a ‘riot’ among Lib Dem activists. Laws’ account confirms rumours in 2011 and 2012 that Cameron and Osborne wanted a Con-Lib pact to avoid defeat.

Right-wing MPs claimed it was a Downing Street plot to merge the two parties and water down traditional Tory policies. No 10 denied such a move had been made.

The term, ‘coupon election’, dates back to 1918 when Coalition leaders Lloyd George and Bonar Law regained power by using coupons to endorse coalition candidates.

The Lib Dems might think in hindsight they should have taken the deal and ended up with around 45 MPs instead of the 8 they currently have, but Laws is right, the Lib Dems would have been portrayed as Tory lapdogs for a generation.

What this coupon deal would have done is energised a lot of the non Cameroon Tory right to defect to UKIP, from the Parliamentary party to the voluntary party as it would have confirmed their worst fears about Cameron and Osborne. Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless wouldn’t have been the only Tory MPs who defected to UKIP in the last Parliament. I’m fairly certain this deal would have seen UKIP end up with more than just one MP at the last general election. This deal would have also upset and annoyed  Tories activists and members in the Lib Dem held seats the Tories were hoping (and did gain) in 2015.

George Osborne’s reputation is at an all time low, stories like this, how he nearly denied the Tories a majority, prevented the Lib Dem wipe out and boosted UKIP will not help his reputation recover. Even if he denies it and says it is a Lib Dem fantasy, you can believe it is something Osborne would have offered.



The Osborne Supremacy might be over but the Osborne Legacy could see the next Tory leader have an Osborne Identity

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

Whilst Osborne might not be the next Tory leader, he could still influence the result, so here’s an 80/1 tip on next Tory leader.

The Sunday Times story above doesn’t surprise me. Osborne seems more comfortable being the éminence grise to Tory leaders than being leader himself, and lest we forget in 2005, he declined to run for the leadership, backing the more electable candidate (and his friend) he could well do the same again in the next leadership contest.

There is a danger for those in the cabinet, regardless of which side of the EU referendum they are on, they are going to fundamentally damaged by the referendum campaign, because so far it hasn’t been a debate of Socratic wonder, more Project Fear meets Project Whinge with who can come up with the most hyperbolic scare story. So someone who isn’t high profile now, comes to the fore in the leadership election, something the Tories have a history of doing.

I might be very wrong in this assessment, but despite recent events the Tories still retain their blood lust for power, something they lost between September 1992 and 2005, as many Leavers, are still supporters of the Cameroon project. Being a Brexiter doesn’t mean you’re automatically opposed to the Cameroon project, Michael Gove being the perfect example of this. As the recent poll of Tory members shows, when choosing the next Leader, competence and having the best chance of winning the 2020 general election are the top two criteria, being a change of direction from Cameron garners only 3% support.

In the past I thought if Osborne didn’t run for Tory leader, he would support Sajid Javid, but Javid has underwhelmed as Business Secretary, so who would get Osborne and Cameron’s support now?

So I’ve decided to back Matt Hancock as next Tory leader at 80/1 with Corals. He’s Osborne’s former Chief of Staff, and has often been described as Osborne’s protégé. Whilst he did read PPE at Oxford like so many of today’s political class, he’s had a career outside of politics, working for the Bank of England, which might be useful for the Tories if they want to maintain their reputation for economic competence.

As Hancock is largely unknown to the public, he doesn’t have the negative ratings of say Michael Gove, whose ratings are on a par with Jeremy Corbyn, and Gove strikes me as a man aware of his own (electoral) limitations who won’t run for leader if his ratings remain as dire as they currently are. As noted in the past often winning the Tory leadership is about who you aren’t not about who you are which might be an advantage for Hancock.

The one criticism that Osborne detractors cannot level against him is his total loyalty and support to his party leader and his allies, especially when you consider history has shown the creative differences between the occupants of No 10 and No 11, from Thatcher & Lawson to Blair & Brown  can cause huge problems for the Government. This has been as much an Osborne government as it has been a Cameron government.

You can see Osborne being the éminence grise under a Hancock leadership. As David Maxwell Fyfe noted many years ago, loyalty is the Tory party’s secret weapon, and it might just well be Osborne’s secret weapon in winning the next Tory leadership contest for his protégé.



It’s being suggested that Osborne is close to abandoning his leadership ambitions

Saturday, March 19th, 2016


A budget for the referendum and Osborne’s career ambitions

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016


The measures designed for a REMAIN outcome

Perhaps the most astute post budget observation was contained in this Tweet from the political academic Tim Bale.

Perhaps more than anybody Osborne’s career is very much tied up with REMAIN winning the referendum in three months time and who could blame him for using the platform of the budget to help the cause.

He devoted a section of his statement to echoing the warnings of the dangers of an LEAVE vote in what was one of the most politicised budgets that I can recall. He also announced measured on savings and other matters designed specifically for the younger generations who have largely been ignored by him in the past.

Tim Bale’s comment hits the nail on the head. With older people the most likely to want out Osborne needs to ensure that as many of those in the electorate who most support remain do actually turn out on June 23rd.

Given the important role that he’ll play in the coming months he also desperately needs the budget to help restore his reputation.

Others have described the sugar tax announcement as a dead cat move designed to divert attention from some of the figures that have not been so good.

I thought he did quite well.

Whether it’ll help his leadership ambitions it is too early to say.

Mike Smithson


George Osborne’s budget day YouGov ratings showing a net drop of 20 since November

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016


And he’s no longer favourite to succeed Cameron


Alastair Meeks says George Osborne’s star is dimming

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Ozzy Pose

What the Chancellor should do if he wants the top job

The last few months have not been good for George Osborne.  When he rose to give the last budget in July, he looked like a man ready to take over the top job.  Following the general election he had been appointed First Secretary of State, recognising his place as second among equals.  He had carved out a distinct policy agenda of his own within government on the northern powerhouse.  The economy was looking sound and the opposition was nowhere.

Since then, the Chancellor has had a succession of mishaps, some self-inflicted and some external.  The prospects for the economy look much less certain, thanks largely to turbulence elsewhere in the world.  He has been forced to retreat on two separate measures trailed in that budget: first, he had to give up on the idea of cutting tax credits; next, he has been forced to scale back his ambitions to reform the taxation of pensions.  Finally, he has been identified closely with the Remain campaign, accused of doffing up backbenchers toying with supporting Leave, thus alienating a large part of the electorate for choosing the next Conservative party leader.

As a result, he finds himself with three connected problems with numbers.  First, the nation continues to run a substantial deficit which he needs to close – it is still forecast to be 3.7% for this tax year and 2.2% for the next tax year.  Secondly, he needs to close the deficit using measures that will command majority support in the House of Commons, yet with a majority of just 12 he has already found out twice that he cannot rely on the discipline of enough Conservative MPs to force through either unpopular spending cuts or unpopular tax rises.  Thirdly, any attempt to close the deficit by taxing the middle classes will damage his chances with the Conservative party electorate still further.

So what should George Osborne do?  Let’s put to one side the fact that he has the second most important job in British politics and assume that the only thing he cares about is securing the most important job in British politics.  What should George Osborne do to maximise his chances of securing the crown?

George Osborne is one of Britain’s most visible politicians and very much a known quantity:

  • He’s not got a particularly likeable persona, seeming cold and arrogant
  • He is widely thought to be competent
  • He is also widely thought to be clever
  • He is seen as posh and metropolitan
  • He is assumed to be ambitious
  • He lacks the common touch

None of this looks likely to change at any point before he steps down from the front rank of politicians.  If George Osborne does stand for the leadership on David Cameron’s retirement from office, he will not win by campaigning on his winsome personality.  George Osborne’s popularity waxes and wanes with the performance of the economy and the measures that he proposes as Chancellor of the Exchequer.  He represents competence rather than charm.

There is not too much he can do to change this and nor should he try.  George Osborne is apparently a very self-aware politician, keenly aware of his limitations.  It does beg the question whether he really wants to be Prime Minister in the first place.

But let’s assume he does.  He’s never going to be able to compete with Boris Johnson, for example, on charisma or likeability.  He should instead work on reinforcing the public’s perception that he has breadth and depth of vision.  All of his putative rivals are going to struggle to match him in those areas.

What this means is simply that he should do his day job to the best of his ability.  It is not in the nature of the role of Chancellor of the Exchequer to be taking popular decisions year in year out.  In all likelihood, the election for next Conservative leader will not be for some time.  If he constantly works on the basis that his next action is going to be uppermost in the minds of Conservative party members when choosing the next leader, he is going to make some terrible decisions that won’t help him get the job anyway.  He might just as well do the right thing and hope to get credit for being far sighted in due course.  Sometimes the best strategy is simply to do your job professionally.  This is one of those occasions.

Rather than chasing popularity, he should be making a great show in the budget of being aware that he is taking unpopular decisions and insisting that his party back him in making these difficult but necessary choices.  He should stop arguing that £4 billion of cuts are loose change.  He should start being very straight with the public about any pain that needs to be inflicted.  If he can find a form of words to hint that he might be aware that he is damaging his chances of taking over as leader in order to do the best that he can for his country in his current job, so much the better: self-sacrifice always goes down well, especially if it can be contrasted with others transparently acting in a self-serving manner.

Then he should go out and campaign hard for Remain.  He’s already firmly tied in his party’s imagination to the Remain camp and by far his best chance of taking the top job arises if Remain wins well, so he should take the opportunity to show his campaigning acumen.  David Cameron is fighting hard to ensure that he is not left as a lame duck.  George Osborne should follow his close friend’s example.  Sooner or later, leaders have to lead.

Alastair Meeks


Betting on when Osborne ceases to be Chancellor

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

Ozzy Exit Date

On Wednesday George Osborne will deliver his eighth budget and I’m starting to wonder if this will be Osborne’s final budget, for the following reasons,

  1. Were Leave to win, I expect Cameron to cease being Tory leader, and a new leader, assuming it isn’t Osborne, will want someone else as Chancellor. If the new Leader is Osborne, that will also end Osborne’s tenure  as Chancellor.
  2. Even if Remain wins, Cameron is expected to conduct a ‘reconciliation reshuffle’ If it is a small Remain victory, he might be tempted to move Osborne, and replace him with a Leaver, as was said of an earlier Old Etonian Tory Prime Minister, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life.”
  3. Osborne’s stock seems to be at an all time low amongst Tory MPs, last year we saw it with tax credits, this year we’ve seen it with Tory MPs forcing Osborne to abandon plans on radical pension reform.
  4. Osborne will have been Chancellor/Shadow Chancellor for eleven years this May, he may wish to move to another department. I’ve always thought one of the reasons Gordon Brown proved to be a poor Prime Minister was that for twenty years, he had either been Chancellor or Shadowed economic roles, he might have been better served for becoming Prime Minister running/shadowing other Government departments before he became Prime Minister.

So I’m taking the 6/1 William Hill are offering that Osborne ceases to be Chancellor this year for the reasons above, especially when you consider the best odds you can get on Leave winning are 12/5 and Cameron going this year is 7/2.


PS –  The budget will the first time Osborne faces Corbyn at the despatch box, as the Leader of the Opposition responds to the budget. If Osborne fails to shine against Corbyn, or if  Corbyn puts in a better than expected performance, Osborne’s stock will plummet further, so it might be wise to start laying him some more as next Tory leader.