Sunday 18 January 2009

George Osborne: an apology

The return of at least one grown-up non-Europhobe to the Shadow Cabinet should be very much welcomed by pro-Europeans in all parties.

But it reminds me that Next Left may owe Shadow Chancellor George Osborne an apology. We cruelly 'itchy chin' ridiculed reported claims by his friends that it was the boy George who was pushing hardest for Ken to come back to the Shadow Cabinet.

However, a couple of days later, the always v.well informed Ben Brogan of the Mail reported that:

Mr Osborne has let it be known that neither he nor his 'friends' have voiced the view that he is happy about Mr Clarke's return, as reported yesterday.

So, sorry George, for thinking you might be so cynical as to pretend that you were.

Unless, however, tomorrow you do turn out to be really, really happy with your friend Dave inflicting what looks to most of Westminster like the double humiliation of the Hague promotion and Clarke return.

In that case, we can re-retract. We will know you were triple bluffing. Or something.


Iain Dale said...

What an unbelievably pathetic post. It demeans both you and the Fabian Society, Sunder.

I thought the Fabian Society was all about ideas, not character assassination.

Sunder Katwala said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sunder Katwala said...


I don't understand your point at all. Where is the character assassination? It is a short post on some interesting personal politics at the top of one of the major parties.

1. Somebody billed as "friends" of GO briefed to The Telegraph on Jan 6th that it was George Osborne who had been pushing for the return of Clarke. (That was widely reported: I was very sceptical that he had been doing that, and thought it very silly and implausible if he were to claim that).

2. Brogan reported on Jan 8th in essence that Osborne's camp had made very clear to him that this was not his or their position. For me, that killed off the idea that Osborne was championing Ken. (And some on the right were trying to stop Ken, as you have commented on in your own post).

3. I simply don't know what GO will say about this now. His shadow position remains secure, but the party politics of it are clearly tricky for him. I am sure Tories will admit that in private, as anybody can see it.

It seems clear that Cameron has decided

(i) to keep Osborne as Shadow Chancellor, which I have personally all along predicted he would, while there have been some senior right-wing commentators calling for him to be moved

(ii) to rebalance his team to make Osborne somewhat less prominent, with Clarke in a public-facing role, while putting firmly on the record that Hague is the senior member of his team, which the well informed Daily Telegraph reported as "an interview widely interpreted as a slap-down to Mr Osborne, who is usually considered number two in the party hierarchy" and as "widely seen in Tory circles as a blow to Mr Osborne".

These moves and their communication have clearly been thought through by the Tory leaders' team: the Hague move was remarkably public and coordinated media operation, and I am sure nobody in politics thought it was just that they happened to have some diary space to do an interview together.

There is lots of interest here, including a Cameron steel/ruthlessness which perhaps belies some of the public image

Stuart White said...

Iain, Sunder's post seems like perfectly fair game to me. This is the kind of spin-demolition which I would expect a critical blogsite to engage in. It is not character assassination to make the points Sunder makes in the post; arguably, it would be obsequious (er, can someone check my spelling?) not to!