General Election 2015: Familiar friends give George Osborne a warm welcome


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Indy Politics

George Osborne kicked off the first of no doubt countless warehouse campaign events by addressing workers in a cold and cavernous hangar packed with soft drinks at Britvic’s “flagship plant” in Leeds yesterday. A good call, because by an astonishing coincidence the company’s chairman Gerald Corbett had been among 103 businessmen who signed a Telegraph letter that very morning saying what a good job the Chancellor was doing.

Earlier in the day he had been at Marston’s Wolverhampton brewery, whose boss – guess what! – had also serendipitously signed up to what Osborne modestly called this “unprecedented intervention” in our economy debate.

Osborne is no Demosthenes. But this doesn’t matter because he hit on the brilliant rhetorical tactic of reading out large chunks of the letter: “This Conservative-led government has been good for business… We believe a change of course will threaten jobs and deter investment… This would send a negative message and put the recovery at risk.”


Osborne was so taken with this last quote that he repeated it again at the end of his speech. And reinforced it with a newly arranged medley of his favourite phrases – “balanced economy”, “northern powerhouse” and one new one: “36 days to save the economic recovery!” (In 2001 William Hague kept saying “x days to save the pound.” It didn’t win the election but it was a lot snappier.)

Some questions were fairly easy. As in, “I’m very pleased you’ve been doing a fantastic job George, but are you sure you’re going to cut the deficit in the next five years?” (Amazingly, George was.)

A Leeds university student asked the Chancellor what specific policies he would single out for young people. Well, he said, he wasn’t really into generation differences. Policies were for the whole country. Which may come as news David Cameron who has endlessly told pensioners how great they are for them.

But then the man from BBC Look North had a go at Osborne’s triumphant announcement that under this government “Yorkshire has created more jobs than France”. Wasn’t this a bit “disingenuous” given that so many jobs had been lost in France that pretty well anywhere would have created more? (The Antarctic, say?) Undeterred, George simply stressed how well Yorkshire was doing.

He started 15 minutes late, which was just as well since the train bringing us from London was half an hour behind schedule – a triumph for newly privatised Virgin East Coast. Which didn’t stop George banging on about the Coalition’s brilliant policies for high-speed rail.