It will be interesting to see whether George Osborne appears anywhere near a TV camera today. And it will be interesting to see whether he allows himself to be questioned.
With the economy the most important issue on the government’s agenda, and with Osborne being the Chancellor of the Exchequer, you’d have thought he might. But Mr Osborne has developed something of a habit of allowing a high profile to develop in print, where he successfully cultivates a sense of being the power behind the throne, the strategist to tactician Cameron, the brains behind the slick(sic) PR, whilst staying well clear from too many challenging media appearances.
This approach predates the full furore over phonehacking, so his Macavity characteristics cannot be explained fully by questions he is likely to face over Andy Coulson – he it was who persuaded Cameron to hire him – and over a meeting with Rupert Murdoch in the States as the BSkyB decision was pending. But at some stage, surely he recognises this, he will have to face up to questions on both, so he may as well have his answers ready.
The economy is however more pressing, and at the very least he needs to give a cogent explanation of what his Plan A is. I keep reading that there is no Plan B, but so rare have sightings of Osborne become that I have forgotten what a proper explanation of Plan A sounds like.
Most people will not need bad growth figures to know that the economy is not doing terribly well, that prices are rising and unemployment too. The figures will represent an important moment in the debate though and Osborne cannot duck out of it.
The line running yesterday that he is likely to blame international factors is weakened by the fact that their entire anti-Labour, anti-GB campaign was based on the idea that a global crash, in so far as it affected Britain, was all Gordon’s fault. He cannot run the argument that the economy is a UK affair when it suits him – in opposition or when laying the false basis for massive cuts – and a global issue when it doesn’t, ie now.
It is all making me think he is less strategic than his fans in the press have been led to believe, and just as tactical as his boss.
One final point – I keep hearing that the Royal Wedding will cop some of the blame for sluggish growth. But amid the positive mood surrounding the wedding, we kept being told it led to tourists flocking to London and that hotels were jacking up their prices because demand was so high.
So as George looks around for blame targets, he will have to do better than Kate and Wills. That is assuming he deigns to speak to us today.