The Sketch: Christmas sprit sparks a rare bonhomie among Osborne and company

 

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders