Archive for the 'George Osborne' Category


Boris slips to third for next leader in latest ConHome survey

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Osborne moves to his higher level ever

It’s perhaps hard to credit now but only a few weeks ago on the morning of the budget Boris was still strong betting favourite for next CON leader and Osborne could be had for 5/1 or longer.

How things have changed. Boris has slipped and the money has been going on Osbo. The latest ConHome members’s survey reinforces the change in perception. George is seen as the master of all before him while Boris appears to have been marginalised.

Mike Smithson


Pax Osbornia: recasting the political landscape into the 2030s

Saturday, July 11th, 2015


But he still won’t be prime minister

It takes a staggering degree of self-restraint and of confidence to know that you plan to increase the minimum wage by more than 10% and to choose to say nothing about it during an election campaign. It also shows a fine level of political judgement. Had George Osborne done so, he would have been accused of panicking and of allowing Labour to set the agenda. He probably wouldn’t have been believed and if he was, the assumption would be that he was only doing it for votes. That would have undermined public confidence in Tory economic competence and that could have lost the election. Nonetheless, when the polls were almost all pointing to the election being lost anyway, it must have been tempting.

But the gamble not to has paid off handsomely. George Osborne has, in one Budget, gone a long way towards recasting the terms of the political debate. In rolling back tax credits, lowering the benefits cap, substantially increasing the minimum wage and increasing further the income tax thresholds, he is moving both fiscally and philosophically from a tax-and-distribute model of government to an earn-and-keep one.

    What that means, particularly if the trend is continued over the parliament, is that far fewer people will be direct recipients of benefits from the state. Cutting the budget deficit was always going to mean a smaller state in some sense. Osborne’s budget is proof that the Conservatives are intent on selling this as a positive good rather than a morally neutral necessity.

Indeed, this is one reason why Labour has had trouble countering his success, with the only attack line being that some are losing out, as if all must have prizes. In making the decisions he has, he is implying that some should lose out. He is reintroducing judgement about lifestyles as legitimate. And in disagreeing with him, Labour is in danger of being seen to side with the lazy and the feckless. Of course, there are other losers at the bottom end but without putting forward detail of their own, supporting one means supporting the other.

In any case, the analysis of whether those at the top, bottom or middle win or lose misses both the actual and the aspirational dynamics of life. When so many more people are finding work, there’s no guarantee that those who constitute the bottom 10% today will still do so in five years’ time. Opportunity and social mobility have always been the not-very-secret Thatcherite weapons.

These kind of policies are political catnip to The Sun, which has indeed been hugely enthusiastic so far. Does that matter in an era of declining newspaper sales? Not so much for the impact it has directly as for what it represents. We are a long way from hugging huskies here; the Budget was about re-engaging with the working- (as opposed to benefits-) class at a values level. That gap in the electoral market remains open. UKIP did their best to fill it but have stuttered badly since May, while Labour’s leadership has been uncomfortable about those kinds of values since Blair stood down (Blair’s willingness to engage both with them and with The Sun may even be a cause of Labour’s later conscious retreat from that ground). On Wednesday, Osborne effectively declared himself the heir to Thatcher, Lawson and Tebbit (and Blair).

Those names are not particularly popular now. No matter: they’re not the ones standing for election. Interpreting and upholding that political tradition will look different in any given era. And Osborne has earned the right to reach back out because he’s secured the centre (though one of the ironies in all this – and one reason for Labour’s confused response – is that adopting nominally left-wing policies has allowed him to shift the centre to the right). The return of steady growth, the rapid rise in employment and the reduction in unemployment, the return of wage growth and continuing low interest rates is, if not a utopian position, then at least one that can be sold easily enough to the floating voter.

And yet if he has leadership ambitions, all this will not be enough. He may be respected and trusted as chancellor. He may have good approval ratings. He may be a feared opponent (I suspect he’s still not, though that’s Labour’s mistake), or even a feared colleague. His skills of political strategy may be improving still further but all that does not a leader make.

What the leader – the front man (or woman) – really does need is charisma and likeability. It’s not essential: Brown, Heath and Chamberlain all provide counter-examples of PMs who had neither attribute, though none can be said to have made an outstanding success of the job.

    The reality is that Osborne still has a grating voice and a punchable face. That’s not his fault and nor is it fair – but then life, and in particular politics, isn’t fair.

He is also deeply disliked among many who’ve been on the wrong end of austerity. That too may not matter (Thatcher had millions who despised her and still won three elections), but it’s not an asset.

The confidence and self-restraint that served Osborne so well over the rise in the minimum wage suggests that he knows all this. The breadth of the vision from this week’s Budget also demonstrates that in French terms, he’s now prime minister to Cameron’s president. As long as he can continue to deliver on the big picture, that will remain, whoever is PM. The temptation to go for the top job will no doubt be intense when Cameron stands down but we know now that Osborne can resist temptation.

As ydoethur noted yesterday, only three times since Disraeli has the favourite been chosen as Tory leader (Balfour, Chamberlain and Eden); again, no example offering a successful leadership. I see no reason for that pattern to change. The next Tory leader is very probably no more than a middle-ranking cabinet minister right now: it won’t be Theresa May, it won’t be Philip Hammond, it won’t be Boris Johnson. And it won’t be George Osborne.

David Herdson


Don Brind’s question for the LAB 4: How will you get the better of Osborne in 2020?

Friday, July 10th, 2015


This should be the decisive factor

For Labour supporters the worst moment of the General Election campaign came a week ahead of polling day when Ed Miliband was ambushed by Tory activists in the BBC Question Time audience and left floundering over whether the Labour government spending had been too high.

We didn’t need the Guardian/ICM poll which scored evening 44% for Cameron and 38% for Miliband to tell us that their guy had won and ours had lost.

The significance of that evening was that it stemmed from to one of Labour’s failures post 2010. While the party was absorbed in electing a new leader then the Tories and their Lib Dem buddies were able to establish a narrative of Labour’s mess that needed cleaning up.

Is there a danger of the same thing happening again? At a leadership event on the evening of Budget Day I asked when one of the contenders to convince me that in 2020, with George Osborne replacing Cameron “our guy” would come out on top.

On this occasion the question was directed at Andy Burnham but I plan to put the same question to Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall when the opportunity arises. (Jeremy Corbyn is a fine human being but not a credible leadership contender.)

The point is what Labour members need to judge is who they should send into that virtual head-to-head with Osborne. The contenders would do well to remember that they if they get too caught up on fighting each other they are missing their most important target.

They should pay heed to Richard Angell the pugnacious director of Prospect who has written “The job of the party leader is to beat your opponent not your predecessor” or he might have added your leadership rival

Angell made his comment in the course of demolishing the idea that in May Ed Miliband outperformed Tony Blair in 2005. “It is going around that ‘Ed Miliband in 2015 got more votes in England and Wales than Tony Blair in 2005′. It is factually accurate but misleading because the population and the turnout were higher in 2015. What matter is how votes are distributed says Angell. The fact is that “Blair got more votes than his opponents in every election he fought matters.”

So for Burnham, Cooper and Kendall the job of challenging and undermining Osborne needs to start now at the very moment he is strutting his stuff and glorying in his “living wage” kleptomania.

Labour supporters ought to be encouraged that the trio seem to have got the point with some trenchant comments on the Budget. Cooper’s angle was that Osborne’s “shameful betrayal of parents”. The £4.5bn to tax credits in the budget which will hit women twice as hard as men, she said.

Burnham came at it from the point of view of young people, accusing Osborne of dividing young and old in a “Two Generations Budget”. Burnham said “The biggest slap in the face for young people in this budget is what George Osborne has done on pay. His flagship proposal of a national living wage only kicks in at 25, but his cuts to tax credits affect people of all ages.” Young people also be hit by the withdrawal maintenance grants and the loss of housing benefit from 18- to 21-year-olds.

The shadow health secretary was particularly critical of the chancellor’s decision to exempt the under-25s from the new national living wage. Burnham wrote “He was not honest about this before the election and has no mandate for his plans. There is a real risk this will cement a two-tier workforce between young and old as he brings down the deficit on the backs of young people.”

Kendall, tweeted that the chancellor was guilty of a “grandtheftOsbo”. His national living wage would be £1,000 a year less than a real living wage. Don’t let the Tories get away with their living wage con.”

Corbyn, said: “Public investment is being cut even further, and our assets being sold off to a total of £30bn. This is a path to economic decline and failure.”

The comments of the leadership contenders got scant coverage outside the columns of the Guardian. But they need to keep Osborne in their sights. The Budget has reinforced his position as Cameron’s heir apparent. If he can be damaged – by events as well as by criticism — to the extent that the Tories are scared off electing him as their leader it will count as a major achievement.

Don Brind, a former colleague of Mike Smithson’s at BBC news, is one of PB’s regular guest contributors


In the LAB leadership race Osbo’s budget looks set to help Yvette more than Andy, Jeremy or Liz

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Yesterday could help revive Yvette’s flagging campaign

A big problem for all contenders is that there have been precious few opportunities since the general election defeat for them to get coverage away from the leadership campaign itself.

Inevitably all the focus has been on the new government and Labour is largely being ignored. The budget, however, presents an opportunity for the four to show their mettle in a real political setting.

Although two of them, Burnham and Cooper, are former Chief Treasury Secretaries it’s been the latter who since yesterday’s budget appears to have made most in terms of responding to what is being portrayed, so far at least, as an Osborne triumph.

She’s the one who has seized on the gender aspect – woman will be hit most – and she’s the one who has been getting most coverage. It’s smart for the Yvette campaign to portray her as the champion for “working mums” because she is the only one of the four who is one.

So far her response to the budget and the perception that Osborne is more likely to be the CON leader that LAB will face in 2020 might help revive the lacklustre Cooper campaign. She needs to do something because until now others have been making the running.

Both the Burnham and Cooper betting prices have tightened on Betfair.

Mike Smithson


For the first time Osborne becomes betting favourite for next CON leader & next PM

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015


As George Osborne prepares make his statement ComRes issue a budget poll

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015


The genius of George Osborne: His government’s failure on the deficit is being ignored

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Osborne changes the narrative yet again

Given that the key objective of the coalition government since May 2010 has been to deal with the deficit then you would have thought that the failure to meet targets on this key matter would have been the dominant part of the media’s coverage of yesterday’s autumn statement.

I’ve clipped most of the front pages above and you’d be hard to find even a reference. The change in the way stamp duty on house purchase will be levied in future is the key theme.

    Yesterday reminded me of his brilliant move in October 2007 when the Tories were trailing in the polls and all the talk was of Gordon Brown calling a snap election. Osbo made an announcement on what a CON government would do with inheritance tax laws and at one stroke the media narrative changed. Brown & Co were totally wrong-footed and a few days later the Autumn 2007 general election place was shelved. Labour never recovered.

Will the same hold this time just five months before election day? Will the failure to meet targets on deficit reduction simply be sidelined. Judging by the front pages then that looks likely.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


If the Tories do manage to stay in power after May 7th much of the credit will go to George Osborne

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

That won’t harm his leadership ambitions

The autumn statement was always going to be a major event on the road to May 7th and George Osborne didn’t disappoint. So many different ideas and measures all designed to make it harder for Labour in the economic debate in the run up to the election and to block out the kippers.

Although they were well-trailed the stamp duty changes look right for that “middle” audience which the Tories have to bring back or keep on board.

    The main point of this afternoon was to get the pre-election focus back on the economy, where the Tories believe that they’ve a strong hand, and away from areas like immigration where UKIP has been making the running.

I liked the sheer breadth of the proposals which should enable to the Tory team to keep on message certainly until Xmas – May 7th is about whether the country is prepared once again to risk it with LAB.

George will get some good headlines tomorrow in the papers that usually support the blues and there might be a boost in the polls – maybe more firms will have CON leads.

The coming few days will see fieldwork starting in the main monthly phone polls and, of course, there is the weekly Ashcroft poll. To enter the holiday season with three or four pollsters reporting CON leads would be a great boost.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble