Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tory Feuds with Osborne in firing line

Political reputations rise and fall with the ease and frequency of hot and cold winters.  George Osborne has been riding high for months now - ever since the last election really.  Forgotten were his earlier strategic errors, such as the "omni-shambles" budget with its tax on hot pasties.  In vogue were his Commons socials and the near universal expectation that he would succeed David Cameron.
Well George kindly reminded everyone that his political antenna is not always as well attuned as it should be, when he ill-advisedly tweeted about his distinctly less than overwhelming tax deal with Google at the beginning of this week.

Now the knives are back out, as this Sun piece suggests today.  They've managed to get two ministers to provide them with some juicy quotes about Osborne - he's a social cripple, "just like Gordon Brown"; he's weird "like Milliband".  Osborne must be reeling this morning.  The last two Labour leaders aren't people that Labour politicians want to be compared to, never mind a high flying Tory chancellor.

We shouldn't expect too much from this scuffle.  It's an early shot, a quick hit and run at a time when the Chancellor is particularly vulnerable.  Osborne still controls considerable patronage, and most Tory MPs won't want to be seen to oppose him while he remains the favourite to succeed Cameron.  The Westminster village, as we see time and time again, doesn't operate with the rationality of anywhere else.  That's arguably one of the real messages about today's criticisms.  They may have more than a kernel of truth - Osborne can hardly claim ordinary bloke persona, and he does make egregious strategic errors.  But if he looks like a winner in two years' time, he'll be a winner regardless of his competence.  How do you think Gordon Brown managed it?  The stories of his lethal rages, paranoid rants and social awkwardness were legion well before he was PM.

It's diverting for us when one of the political tribes descends into civil war, and we're a bit bored with it just being the Labour party at the moment.  But the Conservatives aren't exactly bringing up exciting alternatives to the wounded front runner either.  I suspect we haven't heard the name of the next Tory leader in that context yet.  After all, two years is a long time......


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