Labour's claims that George Osborne is a 'part-time Chancellor' hits home with his constituents
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Tuesday 12 March 2013
George Osborne's constituents want him to spend more time on the economy and less time working as a Conservative election strategist, according to a ComRes survey.
Labour's claim that Mr Osborne is a “part-time Chancellor” appears to have hit home in his back yard. The poll of 500 people in his Tatton constituency in Cheshire found that 81 per cent agree Mr Osborne should spend less time focusing on the Tories' next general election campaign and more time fixing the economy. Only 13 per cent disagree. The statement was also supported by 72 per cent of people who voted Tory at the last general election, with 18 per cent disagreeing.
Mr Osborne has been repeatedly described by Labour as a “part-timer” at the Treasury. After heading the Tories' 2010 election campaign, he continued to play a key role in the Government's overall strategy and regularly attends the twice-daily meetings held at Number 10. He was accused of “taking his eye off the ball” when he accompanied Mr Cameron on a visit to Washington on the eve of last year's Budget, which was later branded an “omnishambles.”
Downing Street shrugged off the poll findings, insisting it is “a strength not a weakness” that the Prime Minister and Chancellor work very closely together at a time when the economy is the number one priority. “Any major organisation would expect and hope that the chief finance officer worked very closely with the chief executive,” said a Cameron aide.
The survey in Tatton also had some bad news for Mr Cameron. More than one in five people (23 per cent) say they will not vote Conservative while he remains Prime Minister, but would consider doing so under a different Tory leader. But 69 per cent disagree with that statement. Some 22 per cent of Tory 2010 voters say they would not support the party while Mr Cameron is Prime Minister, but 72 per cent disagree.
A majority (51 per cent) of those polled in Tatton believe the Conservative Party is more divided now than it was under John Major in the 1990s, while 34 per cent do not. Some 46 per cent of those who voted Tory in 2010 think the party is more divided now, while 44 per cent disagree.
Two out of three people (66 per cent) want Mr Osborne to introduce tax breaks for married couples in his Budget next week, while 26 per cent are against the idea. Among Tory 2010 voters, 77 per cent back the proposal and 19 per cent oppose it.
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