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Osborne Will Be Pleased With The Revolution In His Fortunes

Last Updated: Friday, March 21st, 2014

What a difference two years makes. At this point in 2012, George Osborne’s budget was under fire from all sides, and the Chancellor himself found both his competence and career being called into question.

That must now seem like a bad dream, as he reviews the 2014 headlines hailing his policy radicalism and political nous.

They key test for a budget is not just its delivery but the following 48 hours. What will the Opposition’s researchers squirrel out of the small print? Will a new hashtag-style nickname like the pasty tax appear overnight and catch on? How harsh will the IFS be in their schoolmasterly presentation on the Thursday?

Osborne’s budget has successfully navigated each of those ordeals. Miliband’s response was empty, and his MPs are struggling to defend it. The best Twitter has had to go on was Grant Shapps’ bingo miscall. Even the IFS’ admonitions about responsible book-keeping only surfaced briefly on The Times’ front page before being replaced with a poll showing popular support for his pension reforms.

If the budget coverage has been transformed, so has Osborne’s public standing. A man who was booed at the Olympics is now piling points onto his approval ratings.

All of this bodes well for the election. If, as expected, GDP finally surpasses 2008 levels this year then he will have given the Conservative party a strong case.

The message that Ed Miliband is too much of a risk to take is all the more persuasive when the nation has more to lose.

But do the changes in Osborne’s fiscal fortunes translate into an improved chance of winning the leadership, should it become available?

He’s certainly in a better place than in 2012, when he was widely written off. But many MPs and party members fear his manner and tone aren’t vote-winning, even if his oft-mentioned long term economic plan is.

Perhaps his greatest boost comes from those who don’t want Boris to get the job. This factor shouldn’t be ignored – Iain Duncan Smith among others won the party leadership thanks to popular desperation to stop another candidate.

The Mayor’s brinksmanship and teasing are winning him no new friends, and alienating people who were once open-minded about him.

There are plenty of others in the field – not least Theresa May – and none of them would publicly accept a vacancy will arise at the top of the party. Osborne can deservedly feel his performance this week has kept him in the front runners.

By Mark Wallace

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK ON CONSERVATIVEHOME

Brian Monteith: Ruth Davidson has a chance she must seize – one that could make or break her career  ‘Davidson must come out in favour of tax competition. Not only is it a bold Conservative move, it is from such competition that the whole of Britain could become more prosperous as the benefits are seen and replicated.’ http://is.gd/DzDqFH

Stephan Shakespeare: Are UKIP supporters racist?    ‘Immigration, of course, plays a significantly bigger role in UKIP’s appeal than amongst other parties, but again opposition to immigration is very widely spread across the public. And while racists want stronger limits on immigration, so do a large proportion of non-racists.‘ http://is.gd/2i9IJm

Joe Armitage: The Parliamentary quitters    ‘Something profound is happening to our legislature. Already 23 Labour and 14 Conservative MPs have announced their intention to stand down in 2015. Politics needs to revert back to a time when it was about contribution, not gain. It has become a game for people who have worked in politics all their lives to ‘win’ PMQs, have their stint in Parliament and then rake it in.’ http://is.gd/irJdWm

Paul Goodman: The weaponised Chancellor  ‘Think again about his record as Chancellor.  Sure, the Government won’t stop borrowing, on current forecasts, until 2017-18 – at least three years over schedule.  But the triple dip recession, catastrophic breakdown of public services, and soaring unemployment that his opponents forecast simply haven’t happened.’ http://is.gd/ymz9Nz

Peter Hoskin: In spirit at least, Halfon is now the author of Osborne’s Budgets  ‘ Barely a Budget goes by without the MP for Harlow receiving top billing and, often, a mention in the Chancellor’s speech itself. Indeed, he pops up in that Sun article I mentioned: “If the Chancellor does this, it would be a tax cut for many thousands of working people who play Bingo – from a Workers Budget.”’  http://is.gd/uoKyFc

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