If it's worth saying George, say it thrice

Our diarist at the Conservative Party conference notes that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be in need of a new speechwriter

The Conservatives are not remotely rattled by the fact that Ed Miliband delivered a well-received speech on the theme of One Nation at last week’s Labour conference, without using notes. Tory spin doctors have been touring the conference centre, impressing upon hacks how very unrattled they are. 

Even so, George Osborne’s speech needed some late redrafting to include an attack on the Labour leader, who “wants to pretend he is moving to the centre, when we can all see he is moving to the left”. The Chancellor conceded: “People marvelled at Ed Miliband’s feat of memory. So did I,” before heaping sarcasm on him.

He was not letting Ed Miliband get away with appropriating the ‘One Nation’ catchphrase either. The people the Tories represent, Osborne claimed, “are all part of one nation – one nation working together to get on… that’s what being a party of one nation is all about.” Having thus uttered the words “one nation” three times in a single sentence, the Chancellor observed: “It is risible to believe you can become a party of One Nation simply by repeating the words ‘one nation’.” Yes, risible.

Greening’s first-class dodge 

Justine Greening, recently downgraded from Transport Secretary to International Development Secretary, was spotted yesterday making her way to Birmingham by train. Most of the people at the conference travelled there on Virgin trains, operators of the West Coast Main Line. Virgin will continue to operate the service for the foreseeable future, despite Greening’s decision to award the franchise to FirstGroup. She, however, chose Chiltern Railways. There is no point in inviting trouble.

Tory MP left in arrears

The words “debt” and “deficit” zing through the political conversation these days, often leaving listeners bewildered about what the distinction is between them. The Tory MP Claire Perry is a former banker and alumna of Harvard Business School, yet even she managed to get them muddled when being interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire for Radio 5. “We have cut Labour’s deficit by a quarter,” she said. When the interviewer pointed out that the question was about debt, not the deficit, she snapped back: “Well, it’s the same thing.” Oh no, it isn’t. The deficit is the gap between a government’s income and what it spends in one year. Debt is the accumulated effect of previous years’ deficits.