Sunday 4 December 2011

Osborne Just Can't Help Himself

Heaven knows, I have no time for Chris Huhne. And it certainly isn't unwelcome that he's been worsted on energy policy by George Osborne increasingly of late: we've been predicting this from the start, and following it blow-by-blow since the beginning of this year.

But Osborne just can't restrain his childish, student-politician ways. We've all read how, on becoming Shadow Chancellor, he sent nasty little notes to Tory backbenchers of the David Davis camp, assuring them their careers were over. This side of his character is written all over his smirk, and it needed to be reformed permanently no later than the day he took over the Treasury.

There is nothing clever about baiting Huhne publicly when you are Chancellor of the Exchequer (- leave that to C@W). Quite the reverse: knowing full-well that the greening of the Tory party was a significant part of the absolutely necessary de-toxification programme (ask Hague, IDS, Howard), the trick is to u
npick the green nonsenses with as much finesse as possible. That shouldn't be difficult in the current economic climate - for a politician of Osborne's supposedly masterful strategic and tactical skills.

But no: he wants to do it with a flourish - in the same week that Cameron is putting his name to the latest (daft) Carbon Plan. Is it supposed to win him the support of Tory backbenchers for the great leadership showdown against BoJo in, err, many years from now ? Or can he just not help himself ? There's a reason rugby players are warned not to swallow-dive as they cross the line.

The Huhnite agenda can be neutralised quietly and with finesse. The risks of doing this noisily and with blunt instruments are manifold: (a) it is a massive distraction, and a source of governmental inefficiency - what is the point of allowing Huhne's plans to go ahead and then subsidising heavy industry to compensate ? (b) it forces Cameron to address an obvious rhetorical contradiction instead of quietly getting on with re-directing the green-policy supertanker, as he had in fact been doing: who knows which way he will jump if Clegg forces him to choose explicitly ? (c) it gives Huhne eventually the opportunity to stomp off, on his own terms, to lead a green-Lib faction to highly disruptive e
ffect, just when the early Lib malcontents (Kennedy, Ashdown, Hughes) have been brought onside; (d) it provides a focus for some heartfelt, cohesive (if incoherent), wide-spectrum opposition that could be a lot more telling than anything the self-serving public sector unions or unwashed occupationists could ever achieve.

Osborne, there is too much at stake for this: you arrogant, juvenile idiot.



Budgie said...

ND: "the greening of the Tory party was a significant part of the absolutely necessary de-toxification programme"

No, no, no. The Tories were in the position of "needing" de-toxification only because they had failed to defend their perfectly legitimate positions in the first place.

In other words they had guiltily accepted Labour's views, instead of deconstructing them. It was a loss of confidence, not a gain in toxicity. And no surprise given their matricide.

Phil said...

Budgie. if the Tories want to spend the next decade in the wilderness again then embracing the views of their core vote at the expense of the rest of the electorate is an excellent way to go about it.

Elby the Beserk said...

Would that be the same Huhnatic who is coming back from Durban (with 40 or so support staff, I gather) with plans to dump another 32,000 wind turbines on this green and pleasant land, at God knows what cost to the economy? A pox on them all, but first of all, who will rid us of this troublesome fanatic? Not the CPS, I fear (and speaking of the CPS, when are they going to do the loathsome MacShane, fingered LONG before the Huhnatic?).

Inquiring minds, and all that...

andrew said...

This is one of the dark sides of the democratic process.
One could ask why have the Poll tax, privatise the railways in the way they did, go into Iraq, run a deficit in the fat years?
Because they can.
People like to win and that means (for some) making it clear that others have lost - even if it is winning at something like chopping your own leg off.
One of the first signs of someone or something failing is that they do something 'because they can' (eg 'New' Coke - not just politicians) - mountain climbers excepted.

Budgie said...

Phil said: "embracing the views of their core vote at the expense of the rest of the electorate".

That itself is Labour propaganda. It is the sort of view so commonly accepted, for example on the BBC, that most people are no longer aware that it is one sided. It is, therefore, an example of the Tories' failure to understand even that a propaganda battle exists let alone winning it.

The electorate does not have immovable views and can be persuaded. As they were both by Thatcher(and her "core values") and by Blair. After Thatcher the Tories capitulated to Labour/BBC propaganda due to loss of confidence.

The Tories core views may be the very best thing for the electorate, and not, therefore, at the "expense" of anybody except a few Labour diehards.

Phil said...

@Budgie. Of course the electorate doesn't have immovable views. However, if when it comes round to election time you espouse views that the majority of the electorate find objectionable then you have a problem!

Also, presentation matters. This (I believe) is the point CityU is making: Appealing to the gallery is tempting but ultimately self-defeating if you need the middle ground on side.

It's easy to take the moral-high ground but harder to win elections standing on it sadly.

Nick Drew said...

Elby - yes, the CPS delay is damaging more than just the reputation of justice in the UK

Andrew - first signs of something failing ... I like that: a good rule-of-thumb

Phil - yup, that's where I am coming from; and Budgie, the reason I mentioned Hague et al is because they tested the stick-to-your-guns approach to destruction - in Howard's case, with the full might of a Lynton Crosby campaign, and the war in Iraq (and much sleaze besides) around Blair's neck

in any event we are where we are, including being saddled with Huhne pro tem: and the adroit political way forward is to insist calmly on priorities that most people will sign up for at times like these (subsidies for greenery thereby slipping firmly but quietly down the agenda), instead of making some contentious point of principle at max volume

just because one is guided by a principle, doesn't mean one needs to pick a fight over it

Anonymous said...

"if the Tories want to spend the next decade in the wilderness again then embracing the views of their core vote at the expense of the rest of the electorate is an excellent way to go about it."

What you mean like paying the public sector (labours core vote) huge increase in wages, benefits and overall size and bankrupting the rest of the country in the process.

Budgie said...

ND and Phil: you have both accepted the Labour propaganda that the views of the "core vote" of the Tory party makes the Tories unelectable. That is false. The evidence is Thatcher - elected three times in a row and never defeated at a general election.

Moreover, trying to claim that Hague et al stuck to that core vote's views is risible. On just one issue, from Hague's feeble last minute 'one parliament without the euro' to the general Tory line of "in Europe, but not run by Europe" the Tory party has signally failed to adopt its core vote views.

Nick Drew said...

the 3 Thatcher elections can be interpreted quite differently, Budgie:

1979 - the major radical item in the manifesto was council-house sales; also some fairly minor measures promised on reducing TU powers, not a terribly bold move after the Winter of Discontent

1983 - opposition was led by Foot, heaven help us, with The Longest Suicide-note in History in his gnarled hand (& that's without even mentioning the War - don't mention the War!)

1987 - Kinnock-1; even John Major could beat him
(and I don't recall the Poll Tax featuring in the Tory manifesto)

conclusion: the usual one - it's not so difficult to beat crap opposition that no-one likes: which is exactly what the Tories found in '01 & '05.

I do recall Tony Benn endlessly making arguments that are identical to yours, mutatis mutandis

Graeme said...

all I can say is that osborne did a good job of triangulating the voters....but now the country needs some conviction and all he is doing is adding to the deadweight of our tax system without bringing any new ideas and he is afraid of just vetoing the Huhnme nonsense

Budgie said...

ND, are you saying that Hague et al stuck to the views of the Tory core vote? Seriously? That is what your view hinges on. It is easy to show that they did not. I gave one clear example.

As for your attempt to demolish Thatcher's victories, that is just a bottle half empty observation. Of course - by definition - the opposition has to be considered worse by the electorate than the winning party.

But that is irrelevant. You maintained that a Tory party that stuck to its core vote was unelectable. I showed you that belief is false by giving the example of Thatcher's governments.