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One big bad bold move … and Osborne’s star falls so far so fast

Posted on 27 May 2012 | 11:05am

A few months ago, George Osborne, in the eyes of many of his MPs and much of the media, could do no wrong.

He was not just the Chancellor presiding over a bold plan to cure all known economic ills in a single term. He was also the party strategist whose economic and political mastery would ensure that Plan A led to what David Cameron failed to ensure first time round, namely a Tory majority. Then he would be well placed to take over when DC stepped down.

The economic part of that is not the only Plan A backfiring badly. Osborne’s star has fallen so far and so fast that some of his colleagues are openly suggesting the Party’s recovery may require a change at Number 11. Just as important, politically, commentators and experts all too keen to dismiss anything Ed Miliband and Ed Balls said on the economy are beginning to say they had a point in their constant attacks about the lack of a strategy for jobs and growth, and the idea that cutting the public sector too far and too fast would impinge upon private sector growth too.

As Cameron is showing with his gravity-defying, judgement-defying hold on Jeremy Hunt, the Prime Minister is not keen on letting ministers go, and there is no minister more senior than the one next door. But for all their closeness down the years you do not have to be a Tory insider to sense the beginnings of tensions between 10 and 11 (I have some experience in this area).

The problem for Osborne all stems from the Budget, and the decision to cut the top rate of tax. ‘All in this together’ RIP. ‘The Big Society’ – forget it. Whatever the economic arguments – unproven – the political arguments were stacked so clearly against that only ‘two arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk’ could possibly have thought it a good idea.

And as Nadine Dorries’ seminal soundbite settles itself slowly and surely into the political backdrop as powerfully as Ann Widdecombe’s ‘something of the night’ jibe at Michael Howard, the mood around both DC and GO has changed. Cameron’s strengths – communications and calmness under pressure – are now  seen as lack of substance, and arrogance combined with an inability to take criticism or listen to others. And Osborne’s reputation as a strategist – already questionable given they failed to win a majority on such a good wicket for an Opposition – has been shattered. As so often, it is one bold but stupid move that has done it for him.

Out and about at various events in both London and the North last week, I was struck by how negative naturally Tory leaning business people were about the government, many echoing the views of high profile businessmen like Richard Branson and Martin Sorrell that ‘they don’t have a strategy.’

Osborne’s job is meant to be the economy and strategy. Given the lack of improvement in the former and the lack of clarity about the latter, neither he nor the PM should be surprised at the change in mood around them both. Throw in their woeful handling of the Beecroft report, and their central role in events under scrutiny at the Leveson Inquiry, and Nadine D is not the only Tory MP thinking that the two men seen as their greatest strengths risk becoming their biggest weaknesses.

  • Addison Jones

    Alastair, I have never marked Osborne as a good economic theory or strategist. The emergency Budget and heaping blame on labour, for the crisis caused by banks was so obvious. Policies to deflate an economy as every A level student knows is not going to help growth.

  • Torytowncrapola

    Good stuff, but who else has either Cameron or Osborne got, but each other ? if one goes the other one has too as well, its a symbiotic union born out of the isolated bubble of privilege they were both bred in. Abbott with no Costello, Laurel without his Hardy, or the rat and the plague flea. In the years ahead on the terrace of a sheltered home for old broken down Tory politicians, the sight of Cameron & Osborne bickering as to whose fault it was, will be a daily occurrence.

  • reaguns

    Disclaimer: I think Cameron and Osborne are either muppets or totally disingenious political opportunists – probably the latter but neither qualifies one to run a country in my view.

    Nevertheless I cannot see Alastairs attack on Osborne, or his recent ones on Cameron, as anything but the Dark Arts Of Spin.

    A couple of months ago, or a year and a half ago, or whenever: the media and general population did not think that Osborne and Cameron were these highly competent ministers. Far from it. Did the likes of Alastair believe that then? I doubt it. You may or may not think they are useless, I do, but they have not moved even 1% in either direction over the past couple of months in my opinion, and I doubt in Alastairs either.

    So while I agree with any attacks on Cameron and Osborne, I do not buy this line that the media used to support them but have changed their opinion, not at all. The best I have read from any media on them is along the lines of “at least they are not Gordon Brown” but with most media agreeing they were far too similar to Gordon Brown.

  • Ehtch

    Cameron has been seriously losing his rag in recent PMQs, his mask is slipping, and PMQs in the near future will be interesting. Balls and the Beast of Bolsover need to really wind his springs up now, and let’s watch Cameron getting even more shirty.

    As for Osborne, the boys a fool. Have never been impressed with him at all.

  • Problem with Warsi is same as with Dave, they are all talk and no action. Far from having her finger on the pulse, which is presumably what she was hired for, she’s a slacker – otherwise she would have known that Tories were heading for annihilation at the Local elections If she has paid for overnight stays with friend – she should have RECEIPTS TO PROVE IT – I would ask for receipts for any money I paid out anywhere and I’m under no obligation to do so! Perhaps she is too rich to worry about keeping account of personal/professional budgets? I have to keep a tight check on mine. She is STUPID not to have proof, given expenses scandal. For that alone, she should be shipped out because she is hardly the model of efficiency. Those committing smaller ‘crimes’ have been ditched as there is NO EXCUSE. She is supposed to be making sure everyone else is following procedures so how can party members have any respect for her when she appears to be acting in a cavalier manner? Problem with this issue, articulated well by Chuka Imunna, is that all parties suffer whenever there is a whiff of sleaze and it could come back to bite Labour on bum if leadership has a go. However, it is OK for the ‘lower ranks, like me, to have fun when the front line has to suffer the pain of resistance! Call me old fashioned but I didn’t like Warsi’s morals even before this latest issue hit the public domain, call me old-fashioned but I can’t respect a woman who had an affair with the husband of her BF while she was, ostensibly, still visiting her BF. So on that basis I have to say; Quelle Surprise Cameron has been very lucky so far as this isnt the first time a scandal has emerged when there is no PMQs for a couple of weeks at least he could have rubbed Dave’s nose in it, Damn!

  • Michele

     The rightist media have supported the Tories simply by claiming that the lack of hard lines is down to Lib Dems.

  •  
    Osborne – The Phantom of the OBRA  [Office for Budget Responsibility A*se]

  • reaguns

    Deflating the economy?! Deflation? Deflation!!?? Try INflation!

    I agree with your last point though, our economics A-Levels aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

  • kjee

    Alastair.. first time on here and love the picture of your rippling biceps on the right hand side.
    Anything to say about  Kazakhstan?

    Government in complete panic seems to be the thrust of your article..and as always, you’re right…

  • Libdem

    Osbourne’s strength re. strategy just has to be a myth, failing to win an outright majority against the previous government was pathetic although probably did us all a favour! His big mistake re. the economy was following Labour’s plans for the first 2 years. He should have slashed all governmental costs instead he’s simply borrowed more and more money with the slashing to come later. Come the next election when the real slashing is in full swing I wonder how his strategy will look to the electorate.

  • Janiete

    David Mellor made some interesting comments on Sky today. He made the point most fair minded people have wanted to make since the Jeremy Hunt BSkyB fiasco started. Having taken the decision away from Vince Cable because he clearly was not impartial, ‘why would a Prime Minister with even an ounze of maturity’ give the job to Hunt who had already declared himself strongly in favour.

    Ouch, the knives are out alright!    

  • reaguns

    Well thats the thing, if you agree with the cuts cuts cuts mantra, then surely the wise thing is to do the cuts at the start. That way things should be improving in time for the good times to hopefully have displaced the pain of the cuts and people to see that they have worked. This way they have no chance to work (within this parliament) but load all the pain onto election time. Bizarre! Unless you buy the argument, which I think I do, that they never ever really planned to make any proper cuts, they just planned to calm the bond markets by talking cuts, yet without actually making any. I don’t believe they’ll ever really achieve austerity, ie significant spending reduction, or deficit elimination.

  • reaguns

    Their friends in the media probably, perhaps the murdoch papers, but the majority of the telegraph writers (which is the only right wing paper I read) seem to hate cameron as much as the left wing papers do.

  • reaguns

    Watched Soccer Aid tonight, absolutely great entertainment, but must admit you’ve got to think they should have had Alastair out there! Some of the non pros were pretty good, John Bishop for example!

  • Dave Simons

     I think everyone knew why Jeremy Hunt got the job at the time. It’s just a bit surprising that the evidence has come out so soon rather than years hence. Tory pleas of impartiality are comparable to their pleas of integrity, something else they like to try to con us into thinking they possess.
    What they do possess is cunning, and they shouldn’t be underestimated for that. They may be mired in the usual corruption just two years into their term – after all that Cleggian pre-election wind about a new face of politics – but they have ways of engineering a pre-election ‘recovery’ of sorts, Pavlov-style, and it might be enough to make the UK electorate salivate in their favour in 2015.

  • Nick

    There is now an air of inevitability surrounding the demise of Cameron and Osborne .The whiff is becoming a stench . Cameron has put up such strong defence of Hunt that when he is eventually removed from post ( and he will). Cameron will have nowhere to turn and remain credible.His lack of transparency combined with his arrogance in the face of the evidence stacked against him in respect of Hunt Coulson & Brookes will be his ultimate downfall .The Tory rags are turning , the backbenchers are twitching  , senior Lib Dems are slowly getting some backbone ( Vince Cables comments on Beecroft) and more importantly the public  now show in poll after poll that they do not trust Cameron to run the country
    As for Warsi “The Gob”.Let’s see if Cameron comes out in defence of her “oversight” !! .

  • Chris lancashire

    Business men in the North I speak to remain relieved that brainless Gordon and his helpers Ed and Ed are not in charge. Defecit reduction instead of tax and spend remain the best policies.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think Osborne was ever a master strategist, was he?  He just had one macho posture, which was to rip the roof off the country while it was raining.  His mates bought that for a while, but I don’t think anyone else did.  

    What’s the relevance of Kazakhstan?  I thought that was an authoritarian regime with which T Blair had dealings.  Oh, wait a minute…

  • Dave Simons

     I think we know from many previous one-or-two liners (and don’t they go on and on!) that you don’t like Gordon Brown. Not liking someone doesn’t make them brainless – that’s just wishful thinking on your part. Gordon is anything but brainless , as I’m sure that nagging inner part of your psyche keeps telling you. And you’re still clinging in desperation to that old Tory con-trick about Labour causing the global financial crisis in 2008, and finding a selective bunch of so-called business men in the North who agree with you. I live in the North and I can assure you that there are plenty of so-called business men who think Osborne’s Plan A should be scrapped immediately. That’s not to deny of course that there are plenty of backwoodsmen who, like you, want to believe anything the Tories tell them. Maybe it’s just a matter of temperament or maybe you and yours are, well, brainless?

  • Mark Wright

    I’ve never bought into the notion of Cameron as the ‘Great Communicator’. The tag was transposed upon him by journalists and media types who, whisper it, were missing Tony Blair and the effortless manner with which he handled communication on every level.

    Blair’s recent appearance at Leveson demonstrate beyond all question that Cameron is not even part of the same sport, let alone the same league.

    Comparing David Cameron to Tony Blair is like comparing PJ Proby to Elvis Presley.

  • Michele

    So how many ‘business men in the North’ are you talking abut CL?

  • Ehtch

    “U-turn if you want to…” except on pasties and (semi)static-caravans. A certain part of our community will be happy with that, and I don’t mean the Cornish. Link,
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18244640

    This Coalition will soon be spinning with u-turns, and it will have nothing to do with relations with the press. It will be due to basic and simple common sense suddenly coming and being realised by reality in their minds. How can so many well educated people be so damned thick and stupid? It amazes me. Jeezuz, their parents must think “what a waste of money”.

  • Ehtch

    For Balls and the Beast of Bolsover, feel free to use to Osborne accros the HOC cricket/tennis court dispatch box “the boy’s a fool” in jibes, I give you now permission, and I will say it you came out with it first. E mail me is you want just as cutting, and I will freely supply it, I am that type of fair man in life and World, in what they think the bullshit within their old family warped minds. Life is different these days, and get differenter, lads.

  • Ehtch

    John Bishop is a scouser, so there is no need to be surprised his dad didn’t feed him footballs for breakfast.

  • Parliament should
    get a grip. If they let hot pastry burn their fingers anything could happen.
    Osborne is just symptom of governments around the world. He doesn’t know what
    to do, and neither would Labour if they were governing now.

  • Libdem

    Are you suggesting that we’re not involved in a financial crisis at all and it’s all a con-trick by the Tories? Or are you saying that it’s only come about as a result of the coalition’s policies?

    I know plenty who disagree with Osborne, know even more who disagree with Labour’s policies and denial of any sort of responsibility…seems like you’re one of them too.

  • Libdem

    Think John Bishop is a Red too reaguns…a real Red not the lot down the East Lancs!

  • Dave Simons

    Of course we’re involved in a financial crisis and of course it’s the real thing and not a con-trick by the Tories. It can hardly have come about as a result of the Coalition’s policies as the Coalition postdates the financial crisis. I suggest you try reading what people say before you knee-jerk into action. The Tory con-trick involves blaming Labour for the GLOBAL financial crisis of which the UK is a major component. It is a con-trick because the Tories would have bailed out the banks with more spirit and more cash than Labour if they had been in office in late 2008. Cameron, Osborne and Johnson have done nothing but defend the banks since they’ve been back in office, shifting the blame to public sector workers who did not cause the global financial crisis. Because Labour was in office the Tories saw their main chance of getting back – they would just keep blaming Labour with every expectation that a sizeable percentage of the electorate would believe them. And they have, and you sound like one of them.
    By the way I do agree that Labour attempted unsuccessfully to redistribute wealth in the UK, and this redistributory policy is always branded by the Tory media as Labour profligacy. I’ve heard it so many times before.

  • Libdem

    I do remember GB saying mistakenly of course that he’d saved the world but responsibility for the GLOBAL crisis come on. We’ve not helped Ireland, Greece etc. go bust have we? We’ve not given out billions in sub-prime mortgages in the USA have we? No, I think we’ve made enough mess of our own economy thanks to bailing out banks and Labour’s failed policies.

  • Dave Simons

    I give up LibDem – I don’t think you can read.

  • Michele

     Explain what would have happened if the banks had not been bailed out.
    You don’t need reaguns or others to step in on your behalf so I surely hope they’ll leave the floor to you.  Money where mouth is, cyberly.

    If you’re really sure, and have the knowledge or strong suspicions to feel that certain, explain what would have happened if the govts of the developed world had not followed suit and saved their own banks as GB/AD ‘saved’ ours.

    You do know that that was what he was interrupted mid-sentence of saying don’t ya?  Saved the world’S BANKS’.

    Give us the scenario as it would have developed that Friday that NR was surrounded by panicky people wanting dosh and in the early days of the following week.

    In your own words, when you’re ready ……

  • Michele

     Yep LD, just imagine if the Tories had won an outright majority we’d all still be in cloud cuckoo land thinking Nick was as clean as he pretended but Lollllllllll that didn’t happen.
    Aw …… just think back to that ingenue (with the scrubbed little face above his little yellow ties) of the April/May ’10 debates, do you weep?

    Just imagine LD, had the Tories tried to govern without an unbeatable majority (like one of 100+ donated by Nickyboy) our NHS (in which some of us have invested for decades) would not now be in shreds and ripe for the **ucking by anyone here or elsewhere looking for profit.

    Or imagine if Nickyboy had been able to face up to GB as others have before him (difficult as he is) and formed a Lab/Lib coalition with the majority of only 9 seats against the Tories with their 306 ………. Bills would have had to be good ones to realise all that other coalition’s votes (rather than as now, any old crap can get through with the 100+ spares).

    You didn’t get back to me by the way about the facts I posted to you about pacemaker costs …. or did you and I’ve overlooked it? 
    Have you forgotten that convo about what the NHS used to pay for them vs what US private hospitals or US insurance companies say they pay?   No, you can’t have can you?

  • reaguns

    Agreed, I think that Tony Blair first of all knows his stuff more than Cameron, but also he has clearer principles (despite his admirable admission that he referred to himself as unprincipled a few years ago.) But even if I didn’t believe that, I think I would still think Blair is better at communicating, he is simply less patronising than Cameron. Sure he does the hand gestures, says “look” a lot, used “d’s” in the middle of words where it should be “t’s” – but still less patronising. Cameron talks to us like we’re 5 year olds.

  • reaguns

    I wish I could believe this air of inevitablity about the demise, but I cannot. I don’t think they are anywhere close. Nowhere near the level of abuse in the media that Major or Brown got, yet Major won an election and Brown nearly did.

  • reaguns

    I used to like you libdem, lol

  • reaguns

    Yep, big fan of the reds too, would have been nice to see him and Keane go at it in centre midfield but they kept Keane at the back.

  • Libdem

    This is similar to the Greek argument, buggered if you do, buggered if you don’t!

    Tell me why we, the taxpayers, should have bailed out the bankers. Why should we be forced to prop up a corrupt system.

    Any other business and the government would have turned its back. The City is important but it’s not the be all and end all. 

    If people want to speculate fine but they must take the risks and the risks should have nothing to do with the state.

    Apparently, the RBS balance sheet is as big if not bigger than our whole economy. These ‘too big to fail’ banks have been under-regulated and they should never have been allowed to put all of us in financial jeopardy.

    Regarding the rest of your post, if you want speculation refer to Mystic Meg.

  • Libdem

    I understand that a coalition in your terms is Labour and someone else, anyone to enable you to hold onto the reins of power. Rather than blaming the LibDems for jilting you, perhaps you should look at the ‘negotiations’ between Labour and the LibDems at the outset. I don’t know what happened, I wasn’t there, but presumably the Tories ‘offered’ us more than Labour was prepared to and we all remember the broken promises of previous Labour administrations to get us on-board!

    You didn’t get back to me on why proportional representation is so bad by the way. Have you chosen to avoid the discussion or simply forgotten?

  • reaguns

    I have enjoyed some of the heights of smugness following everyone (bar 2) in my office saying they would vote libdem because they were thinking that way anyway and then Nick Clegg was so excellent in the debates. (Also in our work probably they were scared of coming out as more extreme Tory or Labour). At the time I said Clegg was a “24 carrot twat” that I’d vote for last, and was I right or was I right.

  • Libdem

    Looks like we’ve got a new manager…..hoping he’s alright and is given some time and some money! You know you want us to be ultra-strong so at least the Premiership will be a real competition lol!

  • Michele

     Who was ‘speculating’ by having their money in the bank?

    It is YOU that is doing mindless speculating and just to rubbish people far more clever than those you’re named after LOL.
    If you cannot say what would have happened if GB/AD had done as you say they shoulda, not done what they did, it’s pointless posting it .

    We would have had suicides, lunatic (and suicides of those doing what most of society are usually urged to).

  • Michele

     Yep pet, the ‘more’ that you didn’t bother describing included DPM-ship for the bloke that still has no job other than sitting there looking like Cam’s errand boy (fag per their shared vernacular).

    Do you think those negotiations had a thing to do with policy or were all about the ‘more’ for certain LD  ‘members’ (a euphemism) personally?

    Despite all Clegg’s months of Mr Clean act pre-election he managed to lose 15 extant seats (while gaining 10 new, but coming out overall five DOWN on 2005).

    Enjoy it while it lasts.  All it goes to show is the spoilerdom possible with too many ‘parties’ (same reason London is lumbered with BJ – ‘protest’ votes). 

  • Libdem

    Sounds like you want a one-party state and send everyone who disagrees with you to the gulag hey?

    We have a democratic deficit in the UK and it’s warped to benefit Labour and the Tories. Apart from the coalition, governments are elected by minorities and you want more of this – why am I not surprised?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t want competition, just once I want an easy stroll to victory, league clinched in march 30pts clear like in other european countries!

  • Libdem

    The ‘downside’ to the Camerons, Cleggs and Milibands of this world is that they’re all ‘professional’ politicians. Uni, spad, mep, mp is their chosen route and furnishes them with no knowledge of the real world.

    I don’t know how we can change it but change it we must if we want to get closer to an acceptable form of democracy.

    I would not have said ’24 carat’ more like a niner!

  • Michele

     

    We should have a minority govt at the moment, gormless.

    Are YOU happy that the barnacle attached itself to the sham?

    I know plenty of LibDems that are not.

    Why are you so dishonest, even holding on to being  compromised despite knowing this is the end?

  • Libdem

    Why?

  • Michele

     Durrrrr?