Lords reform and gay marriage take back seat as George Osborne pledges focus on 'things that really matter'

 

George Osborne today pledged the Government would "focus on the things that really matter" as backbenchers continued to heap criticism on the leadership in the wake of the election drubbing.

The Chancellor insisted he was "straining every effort" on tackling the economy as he sought to distance the Conservatives from House of Lords reforms and plans for gay marriage.

But veteran Tory Brian Binley said the verdict at the ballot box was a "major setback" for the party and urged Prime Minister David Cameron to "wake up and smell the coffee".

Backbencher Bob Stewart urged Conservative high command to "listen" to the unrest in the nation and called for some "sanity" in next week's Queen's speech.

Former minister Tim Yeo insisted it was "not too late" to push highly divisive House of Lords reform to the "bottom of the queue" as the Government finalises the coalition's legislative programme.

Earlier, maverick Tory Nadine Dorries warned the leadership it could be ousted by Christmas.

Mr Osborne insisted he had taken the message from voters that ministers should not get "distracted" by issues other than the economy.

While he was "personally in favour" of gay marriage, there had never been plans to bring forward a Bill next week, he added.

The Chancellor said the party was committed in its manifesto to "looking" at Lords reform, which is set to tie up Parliament in hours of debate, but it was "not the priority of the Government".

Mr Osborne told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show: "I think what people are saying is focus on the things that really matter, focus on the economy and on education and welfare. Focus on those things, don't get distracted by too many other issues."

He dismissed suggestions that voters had deserted the Conservatives in the elections as a result of gay marriage proposals or Lords reform as "clearly not the case".

But he said that while Parliament would debate the planned shake-up of the upper chamber, it was not a "priority".

He added: "We are focused on the really important issues that matter to people.

"Parliament can discuss these issues, Parliament is very good at discussing these issues, but it is certainly not my priority, the priority of the Government.

"It is not where the efforts of the Government and the executive are going to be directed."

Mr Osborne insisted the UK was not in the "same kind of financial crisis" faced by other European nations.

But he admitted "things have not turned out" as the Government had hoped two years ago.

The Chancellor insisted however the Coalition would not change course, despite Britain being plunged back into recession.

"I think we have got the judgment right. I think we have got the right path for reducing the structural deficit."

Mr Osborne's appearance marked the start of the coalition's fightback following dismal performances by both parties at the polls.

Mr Cameron and deputy Nick Clegg are expected to carry out a joint visit in the coming days as the second anniversary of the formation of the coalition, symbolised by the No 10 rose garden press conference, approaches.

They will use that to attempt to drive home the message that the Government is focusing on "jobs, growth and the economy", and restate the basic principles underpinning why the two parties joined forces.

The Queen's speech on Wednesday will set out the coalition's agenda for the coming year, which ministers hope will revive and re-energise the ailing Government.

Mr Osborne confirmed he was pushing ahead with plans to include a Bill on banking reform, which is aimed at ensuring the state is not forced into any future bailouts.

Other Bills are expected to focus on helping the "striving classes", including plans for pension and employment reforms.

PA

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