26 Nov 2015

Has Osborne’s Autumn Statement moved him to left of Vince Cable?


BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - APRIL 29: (L-R) Peter Mandelson, Labour's Business Secretary, George Osborne, Conservative Shadow Chancellor, and Vince Cable, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, brief media after the final Prime Ministerial debate held at the University of Birmingham on April 29, 2010 in Birmingham, England.The General Election, to be held on May 6, 2010 is set to be one of the most closely fought political contests in recent times with all main party leaders embarking on a four week campaign to win the votes of the United Kingdom (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Vince Cable;George Osborne;Peter Mandelson

David Laws has been running George Osborne’s numbers through his slightly reduced number crunching resources and has come up with the following analysis.


The Tories’ pledge to get 100 per cent of the £30bn consolidation they said was needed up to 2017-18, has become a £19bn consolidation to the same year benchmark, and 50 per cent is coming from taxes.

Having himself sat through anguished Lib Dem pre-election internal discussions about how to match the £30bn consolidation, he pointed out that the Chancellor now seems to be to the left of Vince Cable’s positions in those discussions.

He also said that even post-election the chancellor seems to spend a lot of time shooting other people’s foxes rather than developing his own strategy.

The Resolution Foundation‘s own economist Matthew Whittaker talked about how the entire election deficit debate now looks “slightly fraudulent.”

LONDON - MAY 17: Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (R) and Treasury Secretary David Laws sit together during a press conference at the Treasury, May 17, 2010 in central London. A new fiscal watchdog was launched today by Osborne, which is aimed at ensuring that the government is accountable on how it tackles the record budget deficit. (Photo by Andrew Winning - WPA Pool/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** David Laws;George Osborne

David Laws and George Osborne working together back in May 2010

David Laws, no slouch with a calculator, even if he doesn’t have civil service back-up these days, reckons the Chancellor’s original £13bn spending cuts by 2017-18 (again, George Osborne’s original metric) have turned out to be about £4bn.

He reckons a Lib Dem-Conservative coalition would probably have managed more than that.

I hear that the original estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility for higher-than forecast tax receipts, etc landed on George Osborne’s desk six weeks ago. It would be fascinating to know when the treasury decided to drop tax credit tweaking altogether.

Ipsos MORI point out that George Osborne is still exceptionally popular compared with Tory chancellors of the past. So voters don’t seem unduly bothered by the inconsistency.

What about Tory MPs?

Even ones who liked the changes yesterday might begin to wonder if the OBR forecasts aren’t met.

One of the fundamentals of the succession story though, is that only two names go forward from the MPs to the membership. George Osborne is now more than ever the continuity candidate.

The opening for the candidate of the Right who could end up challenging him in the final two (if Mr Osborne makes it to that stage of the contest) had a bit of their campaign narrative written yesterday for him or her.

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