The Sketch: Christmas sprit sparks a rare bonhomie among Osborne and company
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Thursday 13 December 2012
It’s Christmas on the Treasury Select Committee! When Labour’s Pat McFadden, arriving late at today’s session on the Autumn Statement, explained he had been at his son’s nativity play – in which the young McFadden played a shepherd – George Osborne gracefully confessed that he had only ever played a “triangle” at such events.
True, this bonhomie was not sustained, including in the pointed exchanges McFadden himself had later with the Chancellor, in which he tried and failed to persuade Osborne to name the embarrassingly large figure – over £200bn – by which borrowing had exceeded the totals forecast in 2010.
But seasonal references could not be long suppressed. In what fell just short of a hackneyed comparison with Scrooge, Labour’s John Mann asked Osborne, as “the first Chancellor since Neville Chamberlain to see food banks” in British cities: “What is your festive message to those queuing up?” Gamely, Osborne said it was a “hard road” but one that “leads to a better future”.
The Christmas spirit may also have restrained Andrew Tyrie, the Tory committee chairman, who as a Treasury special adviser was Nigel Lawson’s second – rather large – brain when Osborne was barely out of St Paul’s, and who is probably the MP best able to make ministers anxious.
There was a hint of his sternly donnish impatience with obfuscation when, pressing the Chancellor on whether he saw the merits of breaking up the partly state-owned RBS, he said after a long reply: “I couldn’t spot whether that was yes or no. Do you want to have another go?” (The answer, it now turned out, was no).
He was clearly sceptical of the Chancellor’s optimism about the eurozone’s recent step towards a banking union that might ease a crisis which, as Tyrie crisply pointed out, Osborne himself had insisted was the reason growth and deficit figures were so much worse than forecast.
Tyrie also pressed Osborne on whether he agreed with the newly appointed Bank of England Governor that its current 2 per cent inflation target should be modified to promote growth. Mark Carney was a welcome part of a “debate going on” on monetary policy, the Chancellor said. But he had “no plans” at present to change the framework. Largely, however, Tyrie left the interrogation to the other committee members. Which may help explain why Osborne left the session more or less unscathed.
Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
LAPD releases haunting crime scene photos from its archives
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Peaches Geldof funeral: Bob Geldof leads tributes at emotional service in same church she married husband Thomas Cohen and mother Paula Yates was buried
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: Concerns grow among search officials that missing jet ‘may have landed somewhere else’
Ukip election posters: Nigel Farage defends 'racist' campaign anti-immigration campaign ahead of Europe elections
Ukip leader Nigel Farage defends employing German wife, at launch of anti-immigration poster campaign
Is Britain really a land of God? Furious debate after David Cameron claims we are a Christian country
An open letter to Nigel Farage: you may smile, but I am not seduced
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
David Cameron's constituency office calls police on food bank campaigners Bishop of Oxford and Reverend Keith Hebden
- 1 William Shakespeare's 450th birthday: 50 everyday phrases that came from the Bard
- 2 David Cameron's constituency office calls police on food bank campaigners Bishop of Oxford and Reverend Keith Hebden
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Women take on Bear Grylls over 'sexist' male-only desert island show
- 5 Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: Concerns grow among search officials that missing jet ‘may have landed somewhere else’
£3360 - £16800 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Cover Supervisor requ...
£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Urgently Required. En...
£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad are looking ...
£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...