Why it’s time to save George Osborne #saveOsborne


9:10 am - September 4th 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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Perhaps it’s because us Brits aren’t revolutionary people, relative to others, that small acts of rebellion come as such as pleasant surprise.

Last night, as George Osborne was named as one of the medal presenters at the Paralympics stadium, the 60,000 crowd booed quite strongly. The video (below) is a joy to watch.

This tells me two things: first that the government is badly losing credibility with the public; second that it makes more sense for the left to have Osborne stay as chancellor.

On the first point, the government is badly losing credibility on two fronts: cuts to disabled benefits and on stewardship of the economy generally.

As Isabel Hardman at the Spectator admits:

There was enough goodwill in this stadium to last a decade of Christmases. When Osborne appeared, the spectators around me were munching on curries and chips and befriending one another. And then they heard the Chancellor’s name, dropped their goodwill, and booed.

As I blogged before the games began, the Paralympics are particularly toxic for this government. It’s not just the row over the decision to allow Atos to sponsor the games and plaster its logo all over the venues. It’s also that the government is replacing the disability living allowance with the personal independence payment, a controversial move which disability rights campaigners argue aims to save money rather than better equip disabled people.

And then of course there is Osborne’s terrible stewardship of the economy: which needs no explaining.

What may need explaining is why I’d prefer George Osborne stay in his job. Why I want to #saveOsborne.

I hate to say this but for the next three years, the trajectory of the economy and the cuts is not going to change. The Conservatives are ideologically and politically committed to the plans Osborne laid out in 2010.

To change course would be to admit that they got it wrong. It would not only destroy any remaining credibility on the economy but would also invite instant rebellion from their right. In other words, replacing George Osborne with another Chancellor would make no difference to policy whatsoever.

Keeping Osborne means the left have the perfect hate-figure in place representing the government. A more likeable figure might be able to sell the cuts or at least convince people they were trying their best. But Osborne cannot, for the life of him, pretend that ‘we are all in this together‘.

Yeserday’s booing illustrated that whatever some within the Westminster bubble might pretend, the rest of the country is seeing through this government’s incompetence.

WATCH

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Poor old George. I sympathise with the article, but I do think it’s worrying when people say they would *prefer* the government to do appallingly because it will make them less likely to be voted in. It’s like those Republicans who have spent the past couple of years doing everything they can to make Obama’s presidency a disaster, because that’s more important to them than minor matters like sorting out the economy and helping people.

Personally I’d like very much for the Conservatives never to hold power again; but even more than that, I would prefer a situation where the Conservatives sometimes hold power but are decent. Obviously neither of these is going to happen, but it’s better to try to work towards the second rather than the first, because what matters is the policies that are enacted, not the brand that’s attached to them.

It’s… (I want to swear but I’m being good)… stuff like this that really irks me about the political process and tribalism. I try and read different sides of debates to get a balanced view and comments like “Lets hope the terrible and inept chancellor really runs the economy into the ground before the next election” get right on my tits.

Personally I’d like to see things fixed sooner rather than later and don’t care which bunch of overpaid under experienced idiots get the job done.

Sunny:

“replacing George Osborne with another Chancellor would make no difference to policy whatsoever”

Correct – not even if the new Chancellor were Ed Balls! Because all Labour would do is the same but a tiny bit slower – though probably with even more but better spin…

Following on from JCR @ 1 and SP @ 2, your apparent hope that Osborne messes up the economy is deplorable. You are wishing more suffering on people you ostensibly want to protect in the name of party advantage!

4. Glen Shakespeare

I have two disagreements with this piece. First, with reference to credibility on the economy, how can you lose what you never had? Second. Apart from a few very good individuals in The Labour Party we no longer have a left. Even Ed Miliband seems determined to adhere to right wing policies.

5. Chris Hillyer

You can add Jeremy Hunt now Health Secretary, rather like putting Dracula in charge of the blood banks!

6. Chaise Guevara

Sunny, what if they keep him on for two years to suck up all public antipathy like a soggy, charmless sponge, then dump him in the run-up to the election, just as they announce generous-sounding policies to be abandoned the week after they get voted back in?

I don’t think the author is saying that they hope the economy keeps tanking; obviously we’d all like things to improve. It is unlikely to any time soon however, and the Tories aren’t going to change their policies.
So long as nobody more charismatic than Osborne is pushing those policies, the public will reject more of the same at the next election.

The biggest argument for Osborne to stay that I can think of is that his replacement would only be worse, one of the cut-deeper-and-faster types to placate Cameron’s far-right backbenchers.

I don’t think the author is saying that they hope the economy keeps tanking

You must be new here because this is precisely how Sunny thinks. He’s not interested in the economy so long as Labour get elected next time. Recession, unemployment, cuts, etc. are all good news to him.

He also got booed at the Olympic Pool.

Mind you, if it had been Iain Duncan Smith…

I quite liked newsthump’s take on this. Ie that Osborne is more powerful than ever having basked in and absorbed the hatred of thousands.

Having political people present medals is surely counterproductive. No matter who goes up they going to get booed by people. We have never really had a universally popular MP since Churchil. I thought the Queen was the best choice because she is more respected by everyone. Even the minor Royals can get away with it (with a minor mishap).

The economy is tanking and that will continue until we swap policy. The Tories are welded to the cuts agenda through ideology. The cuts they are implanting are ideological in nature and the deficit is just a convenient camouflage. They actually want a smaller state and will fuck millions people to get it. What we need is to change policy, not the face at number eleven Downing street. Changing the chancellor may well engineer a dead cat bounce, but unless we change tack this downturn is going to get steadily worse.

The ONLY way that we will force a change in direction is for there to be an acute downturn in the economy that forces the Tories hand. Similar to the rescission that forced the last Tory government to abandon their (more importantly, our) disastrous Monetarism experiment. Scrapping along in the vague hope of a recovery is not going to force a change, so we need a catalyst. If the only possible catalyst is real people feeling the economy falling apart, then it is better that it happen quickly rather than a chronic decline that takes decades to recover from.

“Lets hope the terrible and inept chancellor really runs the economy into the ground before the next election” get right on my tits.

It’s commenters who don’t read the article properly who really annoy me, frankly.

“Similar to the rescission that forced the last Tory government to abandon their (more importantly, our) disastrous Monetarism experiment”

Ken Clarke’s new role suggests a moderation of what is happening. Cameron can’t remove osbourne, the tory right would go apeshit. But appointing clarke as a minister without portfolio to give economic advice is the surest sign that direction may be changing.

Osborne is certainly a very unsympathetic character but if anyone thinks there is any substantially different economic alternative then they are living in cloud cuckoo land.

One only has to look across to France to see what a socialist with a decent majority is doing – trying to find another ten billion in cuts.

Despite the rhetoric of austerity Osborne’s budget is pretty much the same trajectory as Darling mapped out in 2010 with his “cuts worse than Thatcher’s”.

Osborne has certainly been unlucky, the oil price was back at a low $60 when Darling handed over the economic reins, and the Eurozone was in ruder health. Yet depite all this jobs are being created, mortgage rates are at a generational low, and only this afternoon some good economic data with a surprise rise in the service sector PMI.

planeshift:

Ken Clarke’s new role suggests a moderation of what is happening. Cameron can’t remove osbourne, the tory right would go apeshit. But appointing clarke as a minister without portfolio to give economic advice is the surest sign that direction may be changing.

Really? I thought Clarke was just being kept on as a pet, or to ensure he’s in the tent pissing out. Having him second-guess Osborne with ‘Well, when I was Chancellor…’ is a recipe for (more) trouble.

Chaise: Sunny, what if they keep him on for two years to suck up all public antipathy like a soggy, charmless sponge, then dump him in the run-up to the election, just as they announce generous-sounding policies to be abandoned the week after they get voted back in?

That can’t work – by that time the public would have already made up its mind about the incompetence of the Tories.

Shinsei: Osborne is certainly a very unsympathetic character but if anyone thinks there is any substantially different economic alternative then they are living in cloud cuckoo land.

Rubbish.

17. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 Sunny

“That can’t work – by that time the public would have already made up its mind about the incompetence of the Tories.”

Well, hopefully. But it seems pretty clear that the Tories’ strategy is “cut everything now and then put on a mask of compassion about a year before the election”.

I think the chancellor Osborne has been unlucky defence is pretty lame. Unforeseen things happen is a particularly weak argument. There is nothing surer than unforeseen things will happen when a government maps out its economic strategy for years ahead. However, if the policy is not robust enough to cope with unforeseen things happening then it is not much of a policy. The key element should be flexibility to respond to changed circumstances. The coalition bound their economic policies so tightly to their 2010 rhetoric, that any change of course even if they wanted to change would lead to an enormous loss of credibility. That is the trap they now find themselves in and they are frantically trying to change course hoping no one notices. However, that style of governing just leads to policy incoherence and paralysis.

Crude oil was over $70 in June 2010, not $60. Every credible forecast at the time had the oil price increasing even if Libya and mounting tensions in Iran had not occurred. Absolutely no one was forecasting the price to drop. The EZ debacle was already in full swing during 2010. During the summer of 2010 the coalition main men were telling us we were about to become the next Greece. Everyone worth listening to who understood the nature of the EZ problems were saying it would get worse. No one who has been alive for the last forty years could have harboured any doubt that the European institutions would handle the crisis by fudging and generally screwing up. It is just what they do, therefore, there was no reason to suppose they would do anything different. Therefore, oil and the EZ crisis were not unlucky events when they could have been easily anticipated.

The fiscal consolidation is following the Darling trajectory. However, maybe that is an indication how unrealistic the coalition economic strategy was in the first place. Certainly looks that way to any objective observer. Unfortunately we are following that trajectory with a worse economy. Some of that can be blamed on external factors, but most of it is domestic caused by coalition policies. Just pointing to government total managed expenditure increasing is misleading when spending is increasing because we are spending more on benefits due to a depressed economy.

Severely cutting capital expenditure at this time is just nuts. It is possible that government capital investment can crowd out the private sector and take resources away from more productive uses. There is zero chance of that happening at the moment. Britain could spend hundreds of billions on maintaining and bringing up to date its crumbling infrastructure and we would not be anyway near over-investing. We are not even speaking about big projects that takes year to plan, just maintain the infrastructure we already have. All the other stuff about departmental spending is just political froth. Cutting capital investment is what has given us a depressed economy and coalition policies are to blame.

The better news is monetary aggregates suggest an end of year improvement which will last into next year. Money leads output with a six month lag. Whether the improvement in output will be maintained beyond next spring is anyone’s guess.

Richard W @18: “There is nothing surer than unforeseen things will happen …”, and similar: exactly, IMO.

It should also not be forgotten that Osborne had form on this long before he became Chancellor. His original policy, for example, bought into Gordon Brown’s belief in a permanent upswing. I was frankly amazed that he was shadow chancellor at the election, after this and Corfu (etc).

Since the election, his inability to adapt, and his continued inability to even semi-predict what might happen (in particular in the Eurozone) has followed the same pattern. Maybe if he did the job full-time he’d be better briefed.

Regardless of which, Labour supporters should not be so complacent. 2015 is not so far away, and the election may be earlier. So, which Labour party will contest it? The right-wing one that governed from 1997 and is so frequently derided by the left on LC, or will it be a left-wing version?

And seriously, is Osborne any worse than Balls? (I mean overall toxicity, not just economically).


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. sunny hundal

    After last night's booing, I think it's time to launch the #saveOsborne campaign http://t.co/y0e0dXYN

  2. Toby Atkinson

    Why it’s time to save George Osborne #saveOsborne | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Hm2BZxKd via @libcon

  3. Toby Atkinson

    After last night's booing, I think it's time to launch the #saveOsborne campaign http://t.co/y0e0dXYN

  4. country supper

    After last night's booing, I think it's time to launch the #saveOsborne campaign http://t.co/y0e0dXYN

  5. Jason Brickley

    Why it’s time to save George Osborne #saveOsborne http://t.co/GLRJB7Xw

  6. Sirena Bergman

    Why we need to #saveOsbourne – by @Sunny_Hundal http://t.co/hTzUBCxa

  7. DENNIS MCQUADE

    After last night's booing, I think it's time to launch the #saveOsborne campaign http://t.co/y0e0dXYN

  8. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why it’s time to save George Osborne #saveOsborne http://t.co/WoKjy4qo

  9. Penny Jones

    Why it’s time to save George Osborne #saveOsborne | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/BF5MMdpE via @libcon

  10. wbmedia

    A joy to behold: George Osborne's face as he realises he is being booed – loudly. The smile slips – badly. http://t.co/e0h8D6Ko

  11. Kris

    People really do still peddle this kind of "clever" rubbish RT @libcon Why it's time to save Osborne #saveOsborne http://t.co/6pE0YbgL

  12. Native Tongue

    After last night's booing, I think it's time to launch the #saveOsborne campaign http://t.co/y0e0dXYN

  13. Shifting Grounds

    Why it's time to save George Osborne from @sunny_hundal @libcon http://t.co/UsjH6vAD

  14. Alex Braithwaite

    Why it’s time to save George Osborne #saveOsborne | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/GPESSX75 via @libcon

  15. goLookGoRead is:

    Why it’s time to save George Osborne saveOsborne http://t.co/u9uxSkIf [Best thing about this article is the comments underneath, readTHEM]

  16. Antonio Dorileo

    Why I'm pleased George Osborne did not get re-shuffled out http://t.co/y0e0dXYN

  17. sunny hundal

    It's depressing, bit it's right. I agree: RT @sunny_hundal: Why I'm pleased George Osborne did not get re-shuffled out http://t.co/c5h2PNCW

  18. JamesC

    Why it’s time to save George Osborne #saveOsborne | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/idIRY7kZ via @libcon

  19. Viki

    It's depressing, bit it's right. I agree: RT @sunny_hundal: Why I'm pleased George Osborne did not get re-shuffled out http://t.co/c5h2PNCW

  20. Gods & Monsters

    It's depressing, bit it's right. I agree: RT @sunny_hundal: Why I'm pleased George Osborne did not get re-shuffled out http://t.co/c5h2PNCW

  21. Angie Pedley

    Why it’s time to save George Osborne #saveOsborne | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Kvx6Jp6M via @libcon

  22. Kathryn de Belle

    Why I'm pleased George Osborne did not get re-shuffled out http://t.co/y0e0dXYN

  23. KeNaEstoHunCha

    After last night's booing, I think it's time to launch the #saveOsborne campaign http://t.co/y0e0dXYN

  24. Owen Blacker

    Why I'm pleased George Osborne did not get re-shuffled out http://t.co/y0e0dXYN

  25. eric the hamster

    It's depressing, bit it's right. I agree: RT @sunny_hundal: Why I'm pleased George Osborne did not get re-shuffled out http://t.co/c5h2PNCW

  26. Chaminda Jayanetti

    @lisaansell3 You've probably seen Ed M's 'predistribution' breakthrough. But all's well – Sunny will save us… http://t.co/WdCCMuH8 Oh.





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