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Is George Osborne finished?

George Osborne greenish hueThey seek him here, they seek him there. Those lobby hacks seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven or is he in hell? That damned elusive … Chancellor of the Exchequer. Okay, so my reworked rhyme lifted from the Scarlet Pimpernel doesn’t work. But neither do Osborne’s sums, so all is balanced in the world. Well, what a torrid few days for the Tories – and not in a good way. To be sure, when Nicky Morgan was wheeled out on Thursday to announce on Question Time that the planned cut to Personal Independence Payments wasn’t happening, it was obvious the government was in deep trouble. It’s not everyday a government rows back on a key budget pledge announced by the Chancellor in the House. But then the real damage was wrought after the odious IDS carpet bombed Downing Street before his deserved departure for the back benches.

After the most unseemly weekend of blue-on-blue actions since the great Europe fall-outs of the early/mid-90s (coincidentally, IDS had a hand in that too), the disarray shows no sign of abating. Osborne has been holed up (hiding) in his bunker behind the curtains of Number 11 all day, even to the extent of skipping the Commons. Instead poor old David Gauke, Osborne’s number three in the Treasury, had to carry the shit can instead. Some say Jeremy Corbyn does not provide an “effective opposition”, so what does it say about a chancellor who refuses to face even him?

As ludicrous as it was, I can understand the Where’s Osbo? game the chancellor is playing. He knows the fall out from the budget and the IDS air strike has badly damaged his position, even to the degree of sundry Tories taking to the Sunday papers to cast doubt on his leadership ambitions – including a kite flying op from supine allies to test the head winds in a hypothetical world where Osborne no longer makes the political weather. He had to go to ground until the row blew away. This is damaging short term, but in his memory are Dave’s debate-dodging antics. At his most slippery, Dave did everything to avoid a one-on-one with the supposedly useless Ed Miliband. Farcical fun for a few weeks, but in the grand scheme of things it meant nothing. It was as significant to the outcome of the election as a game of Whist in Strangers Bar. Osborne is hoping history will repeat twice, and we know what that means: farce.

Making his debut at the dispatch box as the new DWP face, Stephen Crabb performed a panicky about face. In trying to salvage the Dave/Osbo project, he announced no more cuts to the social security budget for the remainder of the Parliament. Welcome stuff. Desperate stuff. No sooner had the announcement sunk in, the Treasury intervened to say there were no further plans to cut the budget. An answer in other words that is something less than a promise not to come back for the disabled, and a statement that reeks of so-called “factual accuracy“. In other words, so rattled are the government that they can’t even perform a u-turn properly.

If 2012 was an omnishambles, then this is a catastrophe. Is the worst over? Osborne has weathered the weekend. The disability cuts have gone away and the government have moved so they won’t be caught out on this again. Yet there remains a £4bn problem. The PIPs may no longer be cut, but the government remains committed to their programme of tax cuts for the middle class and those who bathe in used fifties. Where is the money going to come from? They could not make the tax cuts – after all, who’s calling for them? I note some noises are being made about adopting Labour’s 2015 manifesto and a start made whittling down the bribes they’ve paid to older voters. If that’s where the Tories want to go then the plot has truly been lost.

Can the chancellor come back from this and get the George Osborne Leadership Project back on track? Unfortunately, the answer has to be yes. As much as they’re knocking lumps out of each other presently, Osborne remains the best bet for continuity Cameroon. Apart from his compulsion to go out of the way to kick the vulnerable, he is by far the best known Tory from the “modern” wing of the party, has sufficient sense to not put personal ambition before the common interests of British big business – unlike Johnson – and from that same perspective, appears to be doing an okay job at the Treasury. There is no one else. Therefore, if Osborne does crash and burn, it won’t be for want of backers among the party establishment.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid

3 Comments

  1. David Ellis says:

    I think IDS did sufficient damage to Osborne to ensure he won’t ever be Prime Minister but stranger things have happened I suppose. The real problem is the peripheral almost irrelevant role of the Labour Party in all this. British capitalism not just the Tory Party is split down the middle and engaged in a brutal civil war. The neo-liberal consensus of the last 36 years is over but Labour has given the Tories a free pass to have its war without fear of the electoral consequences and that is not because Labour elected Corbyn as leader, far from it, but because Corbyn has caved on the Labour Left’s principled forty year opposition to the EU and its predecessors. Labour is literally propping up Cameron and Osborne and will pay very dearly when the Remain campaign wins. The working class however will pay an even heavier price when the far right becomes `the opposition’ to the Westminster Establishment as it is now in Germany and France and other European nations with an absentee left.

    But it is not too late for Labour to put itself back at the heart of British politics by launching a labour movement Leave campaign with a radical, socialist vision for a post-Brexit Britain and Europe. This is an urgent matter because at the moment the public face of the party is the old Blairites including Blair himself who are campaigning for Remain but really just reminding everybody how much they hate the party after New Labour’s corrupt and criminal period in government. Corbyn must seize control or Labour’s pasokification which his election to leader so spectacularly reversed will recommence after 23 June and Labour will end up in England and Wales as it has in Scotland but to replaced not with the cuddly SNP but UKIP, the Tory Right and various other fascist groupings.

  2. Bazza says:

    Is George Finished? Perhaps what ‘GORMLESS GEORGE’ ‘Osborne has to worry more about is the 70% of the Tory grassroots members who want out of the EC and may be unlikely to vote for him whilst Osborne ‘The Master Tactician’ is exposed for producing the most class ridden budget in years (although all Tory budgets are).
    For the rich it’s corporation tax cuts and capital gains tax cuts, for better off couples on £60k+ its gaining £2,500 extra+ a year whilst Osborne was proposing screwing the poor (the disabled) by £3,500 a year!
    The Tory MPs were baying their support for Osborne because he had let the cat out of the bag and at a stroke has destroyed the myth that, “We are all in it together.”
    The Tories are really for the rich and powerful but have to try to win the popular vote (well 25% of the total eligible electorate last time) so they have to pretend that they govern for everyone and must con the masses; I always argue CONservatives are well named.
    Yet whilst many of us Labour grassroots have been knocking on doors and leafleting for months to win the local and regional elections what are the Right in Labour doing?
    Making a lot of a silly list, taking every chance to attack the Labour leadership (elected by 60%) and promoting their ‘great men and women of history’ whilst the working class/working people face massive Tory attacks including a grotesque Housing Bill.
    Grassroots Labour members will have the final say but I for one will only be voting for a left wing democratic socialist potential Labour MP next time and wherever you are perhaps you should too!

    1. David Ellis says:

      I was shocked to read on a Momentum FB page the other day that it expected its supporters to take to the streets and campaign for Sadiq Khan for mayor of London in order to demonstrate their loyalty to the party. This is purely ridiculous. Nobody who thinks of them self as remotely progressive can vote for Khan. Not only will he do absolutely nothing differently to Goldsmith but he will use his mayoral platform to badmouth the Corbyn leadership and undermine it at every opportunity. This is not the way to approach matters. There needs to be a civil war in the labour party which the left is in a good position to provoke, fight and win. New Labour must be driven out ruthlessly. They do not represent any portion of some coalition anymore. They are merely Tories with red ties representing only themselves. Everytime they open their mouths they cost the party votes. Unfortunately it is not happening. Left policies of decades standing are being dropped in the name of unity. New Labour MPs are being allowed to make the definitive statements on Labour policy from war to the EU and even the anti-austerity message is being dropped bit by bit.

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