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Don’t blame poor Chloe Smith for Osborne and Gove omnishambles

Posted on 27 June 2012 | 8:06am

One of the more repellent aspects of the play POSH that I keep going on about is, as I said in this review in The Independent, the sexism of the young aristo Oxford Tory members of the Riot aka Bullingdon Club.

I wonder if it was sexism, cowardice or sheer incompetence that persuaded George ‘I am a great strategist’ Osborne to put junior Treasury minister Chloe Smith up to face Channel 4 and Newsnight last night.

Tired after a long day, I hadn’t been planning on watching Newsnight until Fiona showed me the Channel 4 interview. When I heard Jeremy ‘not as cynical as John Humphreys’ Paxman was in the Newsnight chair, I knew I had to forego sleep a little longer.

It was car crash territory. Like a scene from The Thick Of It. Ms Smith, who had not impinged on my consciousness until last night, will be feeling sore today. But it is Osborne who should be feeling responsible.

There is an old cliche/’rule’ re Budgets that if they go down well on the day, they unravel. If they go down badly, then tend to work out well. Osborne has made history – his went down badly on the day and has been unravelling ever since.

The reason Chloe Smith’s interviews were so bad was not because she can’t communicate, but because the answers to the questions she was being asked were too embarrassing. When did she know about the decision to freeze fuel duty? Clearly ‘about five minutes before he announced it.’ Where was the money coming to pay for it? ‘We’ll make that bit up as we go along as well.’ How does a tax cut like this square with reducing the deficit being the main economic objective? ‘It doesn’t.’ Do you ever think you are incompetent? ‘No, but clearly the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are.’

Part of the job of politics is making difficult decisions. And part of the art of leadership is getting your head above the parapet to explain them. As the post-Budget omnishambles has unfolded, Osborne has done the bare minimum of explanation, no doubt because the focus groups are telling his Party that votes go south (or hopefully west towards Labour) every time he appears on the box.

So off screen, in a further Thick Of It twist, we can hear the Tory spin doctor saying ‘this needs a young woman with a nice jacket – Paxo won’t be nearly has hard on her as he would be on George.’ The plan backfired.

But the inescapable fact is of a Budget which, from pasties to caravans to pensioners to all the other bad moves that have had to be undone, was simply not thought through.

Posh and arrogant (copyright Nadine Dorries) is bad enough. Incompetent is worse. And this lot really are.

A word of warning too for Bank Governor Mervyn King, all over the news too with his latest doom and gloom … do not spend quite so many days at Wimbledon as you normally do. I am sure meeting and greeting in the Royal Box is great fun. But I’m not sure the public will appreciate it as much as you do.

Meanwhile Michael Gove’s weekend flurry of leadership positioning, using exams as the issue while children are sitting them, unravelled as well. But he will be back, egged on by his special advisers Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete, who my remaining hack friends tell me make Adam Smith of Jeremy Hunt scapegoat fame look tame by comparison.

My psychic powers tell me it won’t be too long before a select committee takes a look at the kind of things they get up to on behalf of Mr Gove, his ambitions, his determination to recreate our schools as something fit for purpose in a previous century, and his determination to make sure Rupert Murdoch supports him all the way.

  • This government is the dimmest we have had in decades. We all laughed at the US for re-electing G W Bush but sadly, we now have our own ‘W’ in charge.

  • Richard

    No amount of media training could prepare Chloe Smith to deal with the hand of cards she was dealt yesterday. Your points re the budget are all factual: what is amazing is that all the little boys and girls,  ministers, are prepared to accept the nonsense being heaped upon them. As per the Brown premiership, when everybody stood to attention, saluting, whilst the ship went down, it seems this crop of ministers is worse.Thatcher learned that ultimately faced with revolution in cabinet ranks, she had to go.
    Why has this shower not got enough ***** to  force change. Rabbits in the headlights?
    No, it is the “cling to power” at all costs syndrome. Oh for some competent opposition.

  • Robert

    The phrase lioness led by a donkey somehow comes to mind.

  • Anonymous

    Not many front-line torys appear on telly these days, they just fecklessly bully young or old codger (the old guard) to face up to the pointed pressures of media interviews.

    It is like that spoof of cup-caked Reagan, where the frontline can’t give answers unless they know the questions before, and don’t want to be found out. The Reagan spoof as done by Griff Rhys-Jones and NTNOCN in circa 198something,

  • Anonymous

    Chloe Smith is my MP.Her constituency office tell me her promotion has led to an increase in unpaid interns from Oxford and Cambridge Unis applying to work there.As a Minister she has that extra bit of kudos and she is also part of the illusion of the Conservative modernisation process when first elected due to Ian Gibson’s resignation.AC’s account confirms how she is seen locally too,as a human shield for George Osborne.After last night’s abject performance the only surprise is that he hasn’t sacked her.As Dennis Skinner says when the posh boys are in trouble they always sack their servants.

  • If there were no posh boys we would all be driving around in Trabants. And eating beatroot as our staple food.
    Des Currie

  • Anonymous

    Exactly the same thing I thought with Chloe Smith.

    The problem is its actually a good idea, makes both economic and populist sense, but because of things they’ve said in the past makes them hypocritical. Reminds me on that Bremner, Bird and Fortune sketch where the politicians debate whether maybe they’d be better to just tell the truth “Oh… you mean… like… don’t lie?”

    Instead of just saying “Look, the majority of people in this country want cheaper petrol, where will we get the money for it? Well we’ll either tax something else more, ie something people care less for than petrol, or we’ll cut something less important than petrol, or you might find that at a cheaper price people simply buy more petrol, which will pay for itself.” Or they could say we’ll axe this amount of quangos, american IT complications, etc etc.

    Nice try at implicating Gove though Alastair, boy he really has you running scared doesn’t he! Just be grateful that he is only carrying out the rather popular education reforms and not the even more popular benefit reforms!

  • Anonymous

    Dave, sleeves rolled up, get’s his knickers in a twist, when he is faced with the common man. Note the low volume done by his mates of the beeb, turn your volume up to see what the chap actually heckled with.

    Dave, and Shepherd’s Bush beeb, together, make me spew.

    Anyway, seen this vid? Look how Dave overtakes traffic to see the hundred yards, sorry, metres final, running late from a vote at H of C, in his Dukes of Hazard car, at 0:52 secs in at this video, quite funny. Watch the rest if you want, if you have a strong stomach, and are naturally adventurous, like me and my daughter, oh yes. DEATH or GLORY!

    OK, I know H of C is in recess then, on school hols.

  • mightymark

    I confess to feeling a bit sorry for Ms Smith last night – but then I’m a real softie.

    Interesting question though. Petrol prices are actually falling – I got diesel at 132p a litre in Watford the other day and it must be at least possible that petrol companies could have absorbed the increase making it win win all round (except the companies – my heat bleeds).

    I’m pretty sure Labour in office sometimes timed tax increases of this sort to coincide with the ability of companies to absorb the increase.

    I can’t believe that the Balls artcle in the “Sun” would have so spooked Osbo as to rush tthe decision and send Ms Smith to face the dreaded Paxo on that account alone – so why did he reverse the duty increase rather than fight for it?

  • Anonymous

    Yes Alastair, didn’t see it last night, since I was up to better things, and no, I wasn’t meeting my latest online found lover, honest, well, not last night at least. But yes, Alastair, hmmmm, chaos in the coalition methinks,

    Should have had a GE Oct 2010 again. Blegg and the LibDems are total planks. They are Brit H of C numpties, living amongst us.

  • Gilliebc

    I see Nadine Dorries has been Tweeting about ‘poor Chloe Smith’   
    Good for her, ND that is! 

  • Anonymous

    Just watched said Newsnight, but may I say, from Wales/Cymru, how about some Ronnie Drew, taught spanish and english in post-Franco Spain, singing here with wotsisname from the Pogues, sorry, can’t remember,

    what the fuck is his name? And by the ways, us welsh are well pissed off being used as the middle man between yews english and oirish conts, fecked off I am.

    So there.

    Shaun of course, with new dentures. Song from Boston, massive chutts state!

  • Gilliebc

    Further to my previous comment regarding CS and ND.  It is looking as if Nadine Dorries’ constituency might be up for the chop if the new boundary changes go ahead next year.         

    No wonder ND is ‘giving it large’ against her party’s hierarchy!

  • Michele

    Hope you’ve been able to read the interview with TB, who’s guest-edited the Standard today.

    He mentions his tax arrangements so do catch it.

  • Anonymous

    I understand why you keep quoting Nadine Dorries but you must know who she favours to replace Cameron – your pin-up Michael Gove.

    Talking of whom, he is scary for one reason only – he’s clearly got Napoleonic ambitions and at the moment he’s out of control.  So someone had better cut him down fast.  

    Don’t have much sympathy for Chloe Smith – she may have been a casualty of the Tory Broederbond but she’s one of a number of women in the coalition who should know better and don’t.  

  • Dave Simons

    I watched the Channel 4 News and couldn’t decide which was more pathetic – Danny Alexander’s braying support for Osborne when the announcement was being made to freeze fuel duty , or Chloe Smith’s squirming attempt to justify the freeze by saying savings had been identified in the public sector but she wasn’t going to say where, and we will have to wait until the autumn for an answer. But then they’re both professional careerists and not much else, and like a lot of that ilk they think their job is perfecting the art of not answering questions whilst simultaneously appearing to, especially in the eyes of those higher up the pecking order. When is a U-turn not a U-turn? When a Coalition politician’s mouth is ajar.

  • Anonymous

    You can’t see why Osborne would cut fuel duty?

    Reminds me on a couple of months back when someone suggested to Obama that he would be pleased that petrol prices were going up and Obama said “you really think I want to see gas prices go up in an election year?”

  • Mark Wright

    It says alot about the current perception of this government that even when they announce what in ordinary times would be largely a popular u-turn they are still branded as incompetent buffoons.

    As for Chloe Smith, I’d imagine it’s very difficult to defend incompetence in a competent manner.

  • mightymark

    You’ve missed my point. As prices are falling he could have left it to be absorbed – he gets the tax and the public don’t “feel” an increase. If he had any room for tax cuts (!) he could then have made them somewehere they would have been felt.

    I’m looking at this with maxi cynicism!

    Anorther example of this was Thatcher’s (I think) abolition of tax relief on endowment mortgage policies and indeed on mortgages. The abolition came in gradually and I seem to recall, was almost always timed to coincide with a fall in mortgage rates.

  • Anonymous

    Oh my gawd reaguns, european capatalism is in shit street and it is getting smellier. Banks out of control, and all the rest of us have to eat it’s shit sandwich with fries.

    We are going seriously down hill in Europe, we have had our day. Time to move to Oz, or even China, mandarin dictionary at the ready…

  • Anonymous

    By the way, no bullshit here Alastair, I know Flight Sergeant Roddy behind the royal family today, seated. We were in the same bunk dorm eighteen man room at basic training RAF Swinderby from June 1985. I was 23 and he was 18. And we were on the same course technical TE DFS 94 at RAF Loking, WSM, but he struggled badly with the technical aspects of it all, and we all advised him, since he had done arts subjects as A levels, transfer to say admin section. Hope he thinks I advised him well. Told him to speak to his dad about it, and looks it has worked out well. Liked Roddy I did, but to see him struggling over technical aspects of our course, broke my heart, seeing him tear his hair out at the time. I knew he could do ace in other areas, and so he has. Used to take him home to Corsham when I used to go gliding in RAF Hullavington. Love to you Roddy, glad to see you behind the Royals today. Photo of Roddy here,

    Song and gliding, just for him – glad he is still a common man, non-commissioned, in the ranks.

    Doing good things in RAF Benson base school I have looked at. Good stuff Roddy.

    jesus wept, no, I am not bullshitting you, I knew Roddy, years ago.

  • Anonymous

    Right, I get you now, I had indeed missed the point.

  • Anonymous

    ey Alastair, ey Alastair, I wasn’t posting all these Itie songs for nothing, he says.

    Think Bariocelli will get a red card, when he gets his hatrick.

  • Anonymous

    Deutschen kennen sie wurden europäische, Alastair erschreckt, und als ein Waliser, bin ich froh, es zu sehen. Es schon gesagt, gibt es eine starke Verbindung zwischen uns und den alten walisischen keiten, bevor diese angelsächsische sticht aufgedreht.

  • No we wouldn’t. You don’t have to be posh to make money.

    And beetroot is rather nice.

  • Anonymous

    Visit China and tell me if you still think that Ehtch. I’d give it a good few years yet personally.

    Oz on the other hand…

  • Dave Simons

     I think the ‘trickledown’ theory, beloved of Thatcher, Reagan and the likes of Kelvin Mackenzie, has been slightly discredited of late! ‘Flood up’ theory is more apparent these days, as I’m sure Bob Diamond and his ilk would privately agree and publicly deny.

  • Ehtch

    China is only going one way, and it is in the right direction, as in right/wrong that is. And anyway, they love the brits there, they can’t get enough of us to live there.

    It is nice to stand out at times on an average street, which obviously won’t hapen in downtown Brisbane, for instance, unless one opens one’s gob, of course, Bruce!

  • Ehtch

    Whoops, spells again, RAF Locking , WSM, I mean, WSM as in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset. Strange name for a town, ey? Anyway, RAF Locking got bulldozed about ten odd years ago, it is now a housing and industrial estate these days. Same goes for RAF Swinderby too, between Lincoln and Newark-on-Trent, and  flatened, now all a etc.. All end of Cold War stuff events.

    RAF Cosford still going strong though, last I heard, where I finished my trade training.

  • Ehtch

    Shane even…

    He looks even more startling with dentures in….

  • Ehtch

    …furthermore reaguns, tend not to watch QT, since it badly affects my blood pressure, DD doesn’t help especially, he is too London bubble for me, but glad I came across this clip from the “balanced” beeb. Always liked Balldrick, his time team stuff I always watch if I am in front of the box, even if they had not ever dug up any turnips since he has been introducing it…

  • Michele

    Busy busy …. but Mitch Benn, a regular on this show and someone that AC met on another R4 Saturday programme, does a great song here, at about 5mins in (about the latest broad brushstroke suggestion to pop out of Cam et al this week) :

  • Ehtch

    ok ok, Steve McQueen had nothing on me, when you see me, male glorry, unseen. : ) If that a wooly jumper you are wearing JT Thomas? RAF cunts, as usual life.

  • Anonymous

    So posh boys invented wheat? How interesting.