I know many of you out there reading this have, it is fair to say, never been fans of George Osborne. However, spare a moment to consider how quickly the Right have turned on him – for supposedly moral reasons as well. This excerpt from Janet Daley’s Telegraph article yesterday sums up perfectly this new, post-budget mode of thinking:
“So this has been coming for a long time: this thunderous collapse of the loose confederation between Conservative politicians who believed in something they thought was worth fighting for to the death, and those who had adopted the model of politics as a branch of public relations.”
For a start, I don’t recall Janet having such reservations about George Osborne’s morality a couple of weeks ago. It’s as if via Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation, the Right have decided to place all of austerity on the shoulders of Osborne (as they successfully did with Clegg previously), as if George has dragged them all kicking and screaming down a path they all looked upon in horror these last six years. As if IDS has been sat there this whole time around the cabinet table weeping “But what about the children? Let’s bring back good, old fashioned socialism, please” while Osborne sneered in the corner, sat on a cartoon pile of money.
This is complete rubbish: IDS has been as signed up to the measures the government he has been part of for the last six years as much as anyone has (in fact, more than most given his post at the DWP). The ironic thing about the Janet Daley article, actually, is it decries people like George Osborne for being only interested in PR while being itself part of an elaborate PR exercise.
I’m sure Iain Duncan Smith wasn’t fond of the cuts to disability benefit. But the timing of his resignation was based on pure calculation – one designed to inflict the maximum damage on George Osborne possible. And his reasons for doing this have nothing to do with austerity, or which cuts fall where, but something that has nothing to do with the budget – or indeed anything to do with the Treasury at all. IDS resigned from the cabinet when he did because of Osborne’s stance on Britain remaining in the European Union.
So the Right tells us that IDS represents some sort of moral beacon, the kind of politician who follows his heart, while telling us that Osborne only cares about strategy and power – all while IDS stabs Osborne because George has actually taken a principled stand on something for the good of the country, a move that looks like it will cost him a shot at being prime minister.
Dislike Osborne all you like for the budget – beyond anything else, it was stupid politics of the kind that someone of his supposed tactical genius should have understood was a bad move. When people think you’re the nasty party, cutting disability benefit while taking high earners out of more tax is never going to be the smoothest strategic decision. But however much you may distain George and his politics, bear in mind that he is being crucified by the Right for his stance on Europe – and nothing else.