One of the more repellent aspects of the play POSH that I keep going on about is, as I said in this review in The Independent, the sexism of the young aristo Oxford Tory members of the Riot aka Bullingdon Club.
I wonder if it was sexism, cowardice or sheer incompetence that persuaded George ‘I am a great strategist’ Osborne to put junior Treasury minister Chloe Smith up to face Channel 4 and Newsnight last night.
Tired after a long day, I hadn’t been planning on watching Newsnight until Fiona showed me the Channel 4 interview. When I heard Jeremy ‘not as cynical as John Humphreys’ Paxman was in the Newsnight chair, I knew I had to forego sleep a little longer.
It was car crash territory. Like a scene from The Thick Of It. Ms Smith, who had not impinged on my consciousness until last night, will be feeling sore today. But it is Osborne who should be feeling responsible.
There is an old cliche/’rule’ re Budgets that if they go down well on the day, they unravel. If they go down badly, then tend to work out well. Osborne has made history – his went down badly on the day and has been unravelling ever since.
The reason Chloe Smith’s interviews were so bad was not because she can’t communicate, but because the answers to the questions she was being asked were too embarrassing. When did she know about the decision to freeze fuel duty? Clearly ‘about five minutes before he announced it.’ Where was the money coming to pay for it? ‘We’ll make that bit up as we go along as well.’ How does a tax cut like this square with reducing the deficit being the main economic objective? ‘It doesn’t.’ Do you ever think you are incompetent? ‘No, but clearly the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are.’
Part of the job of politics is making difficult decisions. And part of the art of leadership is getting your head above the parapet to explain them. As the post-Budget omnishambles has unfolded, Osborne has done the bare minimum of explanation, no doubt because the focus groups are telling his Party that votes go south (or hopefully west towards Labour) every time he appears on the box.
So off screen, in a further Thick Of It twist, we can hear the Tory spin doctor saying ‘this needs a young woman with a nice jacket – Paxo won’t be nearly has hard on her as he would be on George.’ The plan backfired.
But the inescapable fact is of a Budget which, from pasties to caravans to pensioners to all the other bad moves that have had to be undone, was simply not thought through.
Posh and arrogant (copyright Nadine Dorries) is bad enough. Incompetent is worse. And this lot really are.
A word of warning too for Bank Governor Mervyn King, all over the news too with his latest doom and gloom … do not spend quite so many days at Wimbledon as you normally do. I am sure meeting and greeting in the Royal Box is great fun. But I’m not sure the public will appreciate it as much as you do.
Meanwhile Michael Gove’s weekend flurry of leadership positioning, using exams as the issue while children are sitting them, unravelled as well. But he will be back, egged on by his special advisers Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete, who my remaining hack friends tell me make Adam Smith of Jeremy Hunt scapegoat fame look tame by comparison.
My psychic powers tell me it won’t be too long before a select committee takes a look at the kind of things they get up to on behalf of Mr Gove, his ambitions, his determination to recreate our schools as something fit for purpose in a previous century, and his determination to make sure Rupert Murdoch supports him all the way.