Simon English: Strident Osborne's talked himself into a corner

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Outlook: How bad would the economic news have to get for the Chancellor to reverse course, to decide that Austerity Now is a mistake?

Judging from his remarks yesterday, a mere double-dip recession won't be enough to prompt a rethink, and it seems almost inevitable that we are going to get one.

So what then?

Part of George Osborne's trouble is that by being so strident, so certain of his actions, he has made it difficult politically to row back from his cuts without appearing weak and prompting cries of "you don't know what you're doing" from the terraces.

When he took office, Osborne, below, continued to speak and act as if he were still in opposition, as if he needed to win the argument, rather than just explain his plans.

A different stance – here's what we're doing and why, but I'm open-minded about the future – would have made it much easier now for him to adjust policy.

As it is, he seems to have tethered himself to an approach that isn't showing much evidence of working.

A scary possibility is that he really believes that line he keeps trotting out about Britain having maxed out the family credit card.

That's a reasonable sound bite. Good for TV. Be nice to see some signs that he knows the national finances don't really operate like a credit card.

He's got choices; he just has to be willing to make them.

s.english@independent.co.uk

Comments