Managed to watch bits of Osborne on his feet yesterday on bbc.com, and (as a long-time critic) I gotta admit the boy done OK.
He seems to have slipped some £££ out of the ill-advised NHS ringfence, exactly as we advocated here (though not as much as I’d have liked), and generally staked out a strong position. Social housing reform is a good first step – they have to press harder with this in a series of future measures, just like Thatcher kept coming back and back again on Union reform. Bank levy is good, too: they must pay for their de facto state insurance policy, but it should be moved onto a risk-weighted basis in time.
Will need to work through the energy package (loads of docs released by Huhne the day before), but it’s right that there should only be one publicly-funded CCS demonstrator – how many do we need ? (Zero might be an even better answer, of course.) By coincidence, if we believe in such things, E.ON chose yesterday to announce they are withdrawing plans for a new efficient coal plant at Kingsnorth – lamentable, because efficient new coal replacing nasty old coal would be a genuine step forward and needs no subsidy: but exactly as we predicted when the initially smart Labour CCS policy (prop. Miliband-Ed) started going off course (also Miliband-Ed).
So the game’s afoot and it now moves to the implementation phase – always difficult when the strategy is a radical one. Osborne seems to be up to his task: now we need the whole Cabinet to step up to the plate. (If I were Cameron I’d hold a reshuffle next week, based on what he must have learned about his motley crew so far.)
We’re in uncharted territory, where I have long reckoned there be fighting-in-the-streets ahead. Does the welfarist underclass have to get something out of its system, just as the unions did with the Miners’ Strike, before finally being defused as a menace to society ?
On a good day, I think maybe not: we’re not France; the Unions are a busted flush; the Coalition rhetoric has been consistent; the public psyche has been prepared; the chance has been taken.
But has the press been squared ? and are the middle classes quite prepared ? Are those poll-tax rioters burnishing their rusty metal stakes in their dingy garrets ? Will Newmania come steaming up from Lewes ?
What do you reckon ?