George Osborne is in trouble. Until this year, he seemed to have magical properties, with bad news reflecting off him and on to his colleagues. For a Chancellor who was pushing through a programme containing the most radical spending cuts Britain has seen… ever, he was avoiding universal unpopularity with remarkable ease. But in the past six months his political credibility has collapsed, with pasty and granny taxes; lower taxes for millionaires; and the news that his crude 19th century economics has dragged the nation into its second recession in two years. In what is excellent news for the Left, it transpires that just 20% of the public support Osborne as Chancellor, with 36% being of no opinion.
Just consider the gravity of this statistic for a moment: the person in charge of our economy is not wanted by 80% of the people he is there to serve. I doubt that Alistair Darling ever reached such levels of unpopularity. Darling left behind a sustainable deficit reduction programme, sound economic growth, and a tax system that was at least making gestures at fairness. Then we didn’t vote for (but got) a cold-blooded, inexperienced toff who has favoured the rich, killed off economic growth, and added £150,000,000,000 to the projected national debt compared to Labour’s plan as a result. Even that figure is likely to rise, according to the IMF. Osborne warned that Darling’s plan would lead us towards a Greek-style bailout. So, not only are we going to pay dearly for an elementary mistake in fiscal policy, but we will reach levels of debt that Osborne has previously warned that we should panic about. Just as well that virtually no-one trusts him anymore, or else the widespread anxiety would have severe economic consequences.
Bearing in mind that Osborne has cost every man, woman and child in this country at least £3,000 each in additional public sector debt, and thus higher tax bills, why is he still in office at all?
Clearly, he is too influential for Cameron to tackle; were he to be demoted he could stir up a large rebellion from right-wing backbenchers that would undermine the entire Coalition. In any case, he is implementing cuts that the Tories have dreamt about for 15 years, with the perfect political excuse. When else would they get away with taking away benefits from the disabled, leaving schools to fall apart, or cutting fuel subsidies for the elderly?
That said, what’s the betting that the Prime Minister isn’t developing a contingency plan to give Osborne the Foreign Office in the next reshuffle, should he remain a liability? That will only happen if there are angry mobs outside Downing Street baying for Osborne’s blood. For the sake of our economy, I shall grab a pitchfork. Who will join me?