Archive for the 'Osborne' Category


Your regular reminder that laying the favourite in the next Tory leader market is usually very profitable

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Ignoring the polls and laying the favourite for the next Tory leader has been consistently a profitable route for nearly half a century.

The picture above is from ConHome’s regular polling on the next Tory leader from October 2015, Osborne would lead for five months in a row, yet he failed to become David Cameron’s successor.

Now people might argue Osborne’s prominent role in the Remain campaign put the kibosh on him succeeding David Cameron but he’s not the first favourite to fail to become Tory leader. David Davis, Michael Portillo, Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine, and Willie Whitelaw, all of those were usurped by someone who a few months was considered a rank outsider, such as John Major, IDS, William Hague, Margaret Thatcher, and David Cameron. David Davis in particular will remember that in June 2005 he was the odds on favourite at 1/2 to be Michael Howard’s successor.

Back in November 2015 I wrote that winning the Tory leadership is often more about who you aren’t rather than who you are, and it isn’t hard to see a stop Boris or JRM candidate winning by default.

My assumption is that the next Tory leadership contest won’t be until 2019, so it might be wise to look at the current leadership polling and betting markets and assume whoever leads and is the favourite won’t be Theresa May’s successor. Just look at the odds on the next Tory leader in October 1974, a little over three months later the 50/1 outsider won.



Day 2 of Osbo’s new job and he’s not being helpful to the woman who sacked him

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Although its now a freebie with a circulation confined to the capital the London Evening Standard is hugely influential in shaping the news narrative – what other parts of the mainstream media come to decide is important.

At the moment all eyes are on the paper because of its new editor the ex-MP for Tatton and who until 10 months ago was just about the most powerful person in government excluding the PM.

He knows “where the bodies are hidden” and will be able to interpret what’s comes out of government like nobody else. As an ex-Chancellor he’s uniquely aware of the full range of government spending and activity.

I always thought that the very public manner of his sacking last July was a mistake by TMay and in his new role he’s in a very powerful position which I am sure that he realises.

Mike Smithson


I’d feel a lot more comfortable about the Brexit negotiations if Osborne was playing a key role

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Beside him May & her team are political pygmies

The swift way in which Angela Merkel has undermined Theresa May’s Article 50 invocation plan underlines how critical it is that Team GB has the very best team in the coming two years.

That the German Chancellor should so attack May’s Brexit negotiation plan within four hours shows how much she needs a highly skilled political team at her side. A politically astute PM, advised by a politically competent Foreign Secretary, would have anticipated the Merkel reaction and she wouldn’t have had her negotiation plan squashed so publicly so quickly.

    Team Fox/Johnson/Davis are simply not up to the task in hand. They don’t have the politically skills. The one leading Tory who does is the man May sacked in such a humiliating fashion just after moving into Number 10 – ex-Chancellor and now Standard Editor, George Osborne.

May urgently needs to swallow her pride and bring Osbo back into the fold for this critical period.

She won’t of course and that is worrying.

This is so important for the nation and, if she thought about it, Theresa May’s political legacy that she cannot by-pass Osborne.

Mike Smithson


Osborne’s new job: Rewarding failure

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Don Brind on the ex-chancellor’s extra job

“He wrecked the economy and he’ll wreck anything he gets his hands on.” — the verdict on the new editor of the London Evening Standard from a Tory activist vox popped at the Conservative Spring Forum in Cardiff by Channel Four’s Michael Crick.

Brutal as it was, that judgement on the erstwhile Chancellor George Osborne didn’t, in my opinion, go far enough. Not only was Osborne a failure as a Chancellor but he is near the top of my personal Brexit Rogues’ Gallery of those I blame for putting our European future in jeopardy.

On the economy Osborne failed, of course, by his own yardstick — the promise to cut the annual budget deficit to zero by 2015. But his failure goes much wider. Although he was sacked by Theresa May last year his enduring legacy is the decade and a half of stagnant livings standards revealed last week by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It forecast that average real earnings in 2022 will be no higher they were in 2007. IFS director Paul Johnson commented: “Fifteen years without a pay rise. I’m rather lost for superlatives.”

Johnson explained, “all of the productivity – and with it earnings growth – we would normally expect has been lost forever. This remains the big story of the last decade – a decade without growth, a decade without precedent in the UK in modern times.”

Osborne’s misguided austerity has proved that you can’t cut your way to prosperity. It has to be built through investment in infrastructure, research and development and skills. For all his talk of a “long-term economic plan” Osborne did little to tackle such issues. Britain’s productivity lags 30 per cent behind key competitors such as Germany and the United States and the gap is getting wider.

Osborne’s economic failure was the backdrop to the EU Referendum. Millions of voters thought the economy wasn’t working for them — because it wasn’t. Many used the referendum to make the protest. That’s why Osborne and his mate David Cameron are at the top of my personal Brexit Rogues’ gallery.

The Leave campaign was, of course, built on lies and false promises by the sad fact is that my side, Remain, was led people who were damaged goods so far as most voters were concerned. After Osborne’s April 2016 Budget Ipsos Mori found that there was a two-to-one majority for those who thought he was doing bad job – 60% were dissatisfied compared to 27% who were satisfied.

My Brexit Rogue’s gallery also has a place for two-faced Theresa. The then Home Secretary Mrs May was also, of course, a Remainer. She could hardly have done less to promote the cause making just one major public speech.  It is worth revisiting now because the speech was impressive in its range and powerful endorsement of the economic benefits of staying in the Single Market and contrast strongly with her current hard Brexit rhetoric it makes interesting reading.

She offered these killer facts:
• In a stand-off between Britain and the EU, 44% of our exports is more important to us than 8% of the EU’s exports is to them

• The EU is a single market of more than 500 million people, representing an economy of almost £11 trillion and a quarter of the world’s GDP. 44% of our goods and services exports go to the EU, compared to 5% to India and China. We have a trade surplus in services with the rest of the EU of £17 billion.

• We export more to Ireland than we do to China, almost twice as much to Belgium as we do to India, and nearly 3 times as much to Sweden as we do to Brazil. It is not realistic to think we could just replace European trade with these new markets.

The born-again Brexiteer can expect George Osborne to use his editor’s chair to challenge her — But forgive me for not putting much store by that. I am, however, encouraged by the defiance of Tony Blair, on the Marr Show,  Lord Michael Heseltine on Any Questions  and John Major in the Mail on Sunday.

The fight isn’t over.

Don Brind


George Osborne to become editor of the Evening Standard but he’s NOT quitting as an MP

Friday, March 17th, 2017

Get ready for a row about MPs 2nd/3rd jobs

The man who was publicly sacked when TMay become PM last July has found himself another job – he’s to be editor of the London freebie paper, the Evening Standard.

But it has been made clear that the MP for Tatton in Cheshire is to continue in that role – something that is bound to cause controversy. No doubt it will be pointed out that Boris Johnson managed for a time the twin roles of being an MP and editing the Spectator.

The paper’s Russian owner, Evgeny Lebedev, said “I am proud to have an editor of such substance, who reinforces The Standard’s standing and influence in London and whose political viewpoint – socially liberal and economically pragmatic – closely matches that of many of our readers”.

Interestingly paper said its schedule would make it possible for the ex-Chancellor to “continue to fulfil his other commitments, including as an MP; giving him the time to vote and contribute in Parliament in the afternoon after the paper has gone to print, and be in his constituency”.

The former LAB leader, Michael Foot, was at one stage editor of the paper.

Mike Smithson


Today’s autumn statement is the first big Treasury event since GE2005 when Osborne has not been Chancellor or Shadow

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

But don’t write off George yet

For a man who still looks quite youthful Osborne has been at the top of British politics for a long time. He was in his mid-30s when the then CON leader, Michael Howard, made him shadow chancellor. He kept hold of this brief throughout the coalition years and when the Tories won a majority in May last year.

His sacking by the incoming May leadership in July marked the end of an era. He’s now a backbencher. For unlike his close colleague, David Cameron, Osborne decided to stay around under the new ledership even though he doesn’t have an official role anymore.

But Osborne is still a player and my guess is that when the Theresa May leadership is eventually toppled George will still be there.

I’ve always had a respect for him after him meeting him for the first tine even before he was an MP a few months before the 2001 General Election. Tony Blair was totally at his peak dominating everything. He seemed to be unstoppable.

The occasion was a college dinner Oxford and I found myself sitting next to the then PPC for Tatton. How could, I quizzed the aspiring MP, Blair’s NewLab ever be beaten. He responded with a suggestion that turned out to be highly prescient – “Labour could be vulnerable if we played the English card”.

He’s always been the great political strategist. Watch this space.

Mike Smithson


The boundary review is so favourable to CON because Cam/Osbo defied the Electoral Commission to fix it that way

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016


The former Top Tory Two have left TMay a great legacy

There’ve been two major changes to the electoral system that the Tories have brought which have combined together to make the boundary review so favourable to them.

The first is the introduction of individual voter registration which has had the effect of seeing that millions of names on the electoral roll had initially been lost. The second is the introduction of equal sized constituencies.

The big question was when you set the initial voter count for your starting point for the boundary review. The Electoral Commission wanted that to have been the end of 2016 to allow the initial impact of individual voter registration to have sorted itself out.

Cameron/Osborne insisted that this should be December 2015 which means that voter numbers used for the boundary calculation are something like 2m short of what they are today. The seats most affected are those with large numbers of younger people who have been most hit by the registration rule changes.

This went through Parliament in October 2015. There was an attempt in the Lords to keep to the Electoral Commission timetable but that failed by 11 votes due to what appeared to be a whipping cock-up on the Labour side.

There were two votes. The first on the amendment was a defeat for the Tories. Then, inexplicably, on the amended motion some LAB peers appeared to have slipped away and the Tory move got through.

Now those behind the overall plan are gone and Mrs May is the beneficiary.

Mike Smithson


The sting. How George Osborne is tackling the deficit

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

We’re all in this together, so David Cameron told us before the 2010 general election.  This assertion was received with derision by many outside the Eton-attending classes.  And sure enough, when the coalition came to power after the election, the impact of the deficit-reduction measures was felt most keenly by those at the bottom of society.  The Treasury explicitly targeted spending cuts over tax rises in the proportion of 80:20.  With most government spending being deployed on the poorest in society, the direct impact of this approach was regressive.  Organisations like the IFS were quick to point this out at successive budgets, much to the government’s discomfiture.

The treatment of the richest in society was a regular source of friction within the government in the last Parliament, and not just between the coalition parties.  When the top rate of tax was reduced from 50% to 45%, rumour had it that George Osborne wanted to reduce it to 40% and introduce a mansion tax but that this was vetoed by David Cameron.

Nearly six years on from the Conservatives taking over the reins of power and the deficit still yawns wide.  The Conservatives committed at the last election to reducing spending by a further £12 billion.  Labour failed to force the Conservatives to spell out just how they were planning to achieve this.  When the Conservatives moved from the abstract to the concrete, their own backbenchers disowned the idea of scrapping tax credits, forcing George Osborne to retreat.

The hole created by abandoning the tax credit cuts is smaller than might be imagined since the system of tax credits is due to be replaced by universal credit in the next couple of years (it remains to be seen whether that actually happens). Still, the Chancellor has needed to seek new ways of balancing the books.  And he is confronted by a numerical problem.  A handful of unhappy Conservative MPs combined with a unified opposition can scupper controversial plans. Sometimes the fact that government’s majority is just 12 really matters.

How to solve this problem?  In his ideal world, no doubt, George Osborne would ensure that Conservative MPs were as effectively programmed as the SNP intake.  In the real world, there are too many populist backbenchers of all shades of opinion in the party, stretching from Heidi Allen to David Davis, to make it safe for him to rely on their unstinting support.  Each will have their own hobby horses.  All those hobby horses will need to be accommodated.  With the Lib Dems much reduced in number and having moved from government to opposition, it is paradoxically harder for a pure Conservative government with a small majority to impose spending cuts than for the previous Conservative/Lib Dem coalition with a much larger majority.  So much for the moderating influence of the Lib Dems.

If the Chancellor cannot reduce spending easily, he will need to look again at tax rises.  Those may not be particularly popular within his party but if appropriately targeted may not be opposed by the opposition parties.   So the Chancellor needs to find targets for tax rises who are acceptable to the opposition parties and where the impact on tax take will be positive, at least in the short to medium term.

The inexorable logic of the need to close the deficit, the government’s small majority, its unreliable backbenchers, the need to obtain the acquiescence of some opposition MPs and the need to raise substantial revenue is that George Osborne needs to increase the tax on richer members of society (who in any case have the most money to be relieved of).  And that is exactly where he has been focusing.

Over the last few years there has been much focus on the top 1% and their share of wealth (and support of the tax bill).  30% of all income tax receipts come from this group.  Many right-leaning commentators have expressed the view that this group are highly mobile and tax rises on them would prove counterproductive.

The Chancellor, it seems, partially disagrees.  He is less concerned about the top 1% and more concerned about keeping the top 0.1% happy.  The top 0.1% of income taxpayers – just 30,000 individuals – pay 14% of all income tax receipts.  The country’s tax base is very dependent on a very few very wealthy individuals.  I’ll call these the super-rich.

The Chancellor is largely leaving this group alone to focus on the next 0.9% or so.  This group is still well-upholstered but nowhere near as mobile as that uppermost group.  If you’re a partner in the Birmingham office of an accountancy firm or a managing director of a company in the south east of England, opportunities to emigrate will not come along on a daily basis.  Some will be able to consider their options but most will just have to lump it.  I’ll call this next 0.9% the affluent.

So how has the Chancellor gone after the affluent?  The super-rich benefit especially from the low top rate of income tax.  By tackling the reliefs which are enjoyed particularly by the affluent rather than the super-rich, he stings them most.

Look at how he has changed the taxation of non-doms.  By upping the minimum tax take from non-doms, he has forced all bar the highest paid onto the UK tax system in full.  The super-rich will have sighed at seeing the minimum increase but for so long as their non-dom status puts them at an advantage over taking British domicile, they probably won’t be better off decamping elsewhere either (or anywhere that isn’t social death to be seen living in, anyway).

The annual allowance for pension contributions has been reduced in successive budgets.  In 2010/11, the annual allowance for pensions was £255,000.  Next year for those on over £210,000 a year, it will be £10,000, with fresh horrors awaiting the affluent in the budget, no doubt.

Buy-to-let mortgages are no longer tax-deductible and stamp duty for those buying second homes and for buy-to-letters is now to be set at a much higher rate (but not for companies with more than 15 properties).  It’s the super-rich wot gets the gravy it’s the affluent wot gets the blame.

No one will weep for the affluent.  They earn more than most journalists so they don’t even benefit from the shameless special pleading that you often see in newspaper columns.  There is, however, a catch.  For a rising number of people, paying tax is something that other people do.  There must be a limit to how much can be expected of a relatively small number of cash cows before the affluent are milked to death.  With a continuing need to close the deficit, we look set to explore this further in the coming years.

We can’t go on like this, so David Cameron told us before the 2010 general election.  But for those in the sights of the Chancellor, they may not have an option.

Alastair Meeks