The awful rise in joblessness, so long expected, is now under way – not from a base of a million as in the 1980s, but upwards now from a very high platform of 2.5 million already. Yet the Commons exchanges debating this yesterday were disappointing. Osborne, summoning himself up to his full stature of smug and dismissive arrogance, used two tactics to divert the Labour attack. He is a born provocateur of the most shameless and brazen kind, and constantly taunted Balls with every aspect of Labour policy with which he thought he could cause trouble, to which Balls unwisely responded time and time again, thus enabling Osborne to transform the occasion from a bruising denunciation of Tory economic policy into a long-drawn-out, pugilistic, knock-down brawl. Sadly, unemployment was the loser. But there was worse to come.
Osborne then had the audacity to purport to cost Ed Balls’ 5-point recovery plan. Gabbling the words as though he knew well how slippery they were, Osborne built the only significant part of his speech around the utterly specious concoction that the plan would cost £31bn, of which £15bn was supposed to represent the cost of adverse market reaction. A more tendentious and deceitful gallimaufry of fictitious nonsense it is difficult to conjure up. The truth of course is that any government that came forward at this time with a plausible plan for growth would undoubtedly receive a positive market reaction.
On the dreadful joblessness figures, with youth unemployment worst of all very nearly reaching a million, 1 in 5 of all young people needing a job aged between 18-25, all we got was Cameron’s empty verbiage: the government will do “everything it possibly can”. This from a government that scrapped the EMA, cut back university places, and eliminated the Future Jobs Fund which helped 4 out of 10 into jobs they continued to hold over a year later, is pretty cold comfort.
The truth is, to save his face, Osborne is being driven deeper and deeper into a world of make-believe and pretence. Adam Werrity isn’t the only Walter Mitty character at Westminster.