The Bullingdon Chancellor: why George Osborne is a very uncivil, as well as useless, Chancellor

With pathetic economic growth, the least Osborne and Cameron could do is abandon the rudeness of their drinking society at Oxford. Instead, they want to champion it

Share

In a recent interview the Democrat Senator George Mitchell, a former majority leader of the US Senate, revealed details of his relationship with the Republican Minority Leader and ex-presidential candidate Bob Dole.

Mitchell explained that at the outset he told Dole he would never spring a surprise on him and would not resort to personal attacks ever, and he didn’t. The two senators would meet twice a week for dinner to discuss important matters and maintained a highly professional relationship.

Similarly, President Ronald Reagan used to meet regularly with House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

Those days seem long gone. Things are quite different in the US Congress nowadays, where there is little room for cordiality or compromise between the warring parties, which thus brings the fiscal cliff ever closer.

This time around President Barack Obama, though, appears to have the mandate to raise taxes on the rich as the polls say, by around two to one, that the Republicans would take the blame for any cliff-jumping, just as they did when Bill Clinton closed federal buildings. Quite a lot of Republicans now appear ready to do a deal as the days of the Tea Party appear numbered. Politics is inevitably about the here and now.

Infantile

I was struck this week how the level of civility in the House of Commons has reached similar lows, with the infantile behaviour of both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, who behaved as if they were at a meeting of the Bullingdon Club, with much infantile rolling of eyes, laughing, grinning and sneering as Ed Balls responded to Osborne’s Autumn statement.

Their behaviour reminds me of Sir Mervyn King’s comments revealed in the Wikileaks cable from Ambassador Louis Susman that the two of them lack experience, deal in broad generalities, and tend to think about issues only in terms of their political rather than their economic impact. Plus they surround themselves with a very narrow and weak team of young advisers. The blame game is not good for the country, and politicians need to start working together to find ways to drag us out of the worst recovery in a century. Now.

Ed Balls had received few if any details of what was in the Statement. Osborne had sprung a surprise by claiming the deficit was falling, which seemed to be something of a shock. We quickly learnt that this was all a sleight of hand, economic trickery, as the part-time Chancellor had fiddled the size of the deficit by accounting tricks including reducing it by monies from the Asset Purchase Facility, the proceeds from the yet to be conducted 4G spectrum auction, and the reclassification of Bradford & Bingley and Northern Rock on the state balance sheet.

Osborne opened his response to Ed Balls with “that was the worst reply to an Autumn Statement I have ever heard in this House”, which of course said it all. Politics of smear and innuendo over serious economic analysis. He told the Today programme the next day: “I would say the reason why the House of Commons doesn’t take Ed Balls very seriously is not … it’s got nothing to do with the fact he’s got a stammer. It’s because he was the chief economic adviser when it all went wrong, and he never acknowledges that. He never admits that he was there at the scene of the crime, so obviously when we listen to his answers about what should happen next, we’re a bit sceptical.”

As Winston Churchill famously said “a man is about as big as the things that make him angry” and “their insatiable lust for power is only equalled by their incurable impotence in exercising it”.

In his Statement, Osborne absurdly claimed the economy was “healing” and his policies are “on the right track”, which is definitively not the case. The Office of Budget Responsibility lowered its growth forecasts by a lot. GDP is forecast to fall by 0.1 per cent in 2012 and then to grow by 1.2 per cent in 2013, 2 per cent in 2014, 2.3 per cent in 2015, 2.7 per cent in 2016, and 2.8 per cent in 2017. As Alastair Darling noted, these forecasts look much like the OBR’s hugely overly optimistic forecasts from 2010 that failed to materialise.

Even based on their forecasts, which Capital Economics believes are still too optimistic, and I agree, by 2016 growth will be a massive 3.2 per cent lower than even they forecast in March. Growth is not forecast to return to firmly above-trend rates until 2015, which means that recession will have lasted seven years compared with four in the 1930s.

Losing the war

Far from healing, the economy appears to get worse by the day. Later in the week Eurostat released data on GDP growth which placed the UK’s position in context. The table  above presents GDP growth over the last year, from Q42011-Q32012, and shows that the UK grew less than France. We ranked 15th out of 27.

The Office for National Statistics made matters worse with its new data releases on trade and industrial output, which are both suggestive of very weak if not negative growth in Q4, ie triple dip. The trade data for October showed a steep downturn in exports. The UK’s trade deficit widened more than expected in October, rising to £3.6bn from £2.5bn in September. The deficit in goods was the biggest worry, up to £9.5bn compared to a revised £8.4bn in September.

Manufacturing output fell 1.3 per cent in October, far worse than the 0.2 per cent decline that analysts had been expecting. The weak 0.1 per cent growth in goods production previously signalled for September was revised down to now show no increase. With the exception of the 3 per cent drop in production which occurred back in June due to the additional bank holidays, the October fall in manufacturing output was the largest since January 2009.

Our AAA credit rating never seemed a big deal to me, but given that Slasher made out that it was, then losing it would spell political trouble. Oh dear.

To quote Churchill again, “politics are almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous.  In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times”.  We are in an economic war we are losing.  More civility and fewer surprises would help.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Commodities Brokers / Sales / Closers / Telesales

£10000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Investment consultancy firm sp...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is recr...

Langley James : IT Support, Bradford £16k - £22k

£16000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Langley James : IT Support, Bradford £16...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager / Invoice Finance £75k OTE

£40000 - £50000 per annum + £75,000 OTE Car+Mobile : h2 Recruit Ltd: Business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
More vegetarian and vegan options are now available for consumers  

The stereotypes around vegetarians and vegans must stop: I've never worn tie-dye, I'm not weak, and I can't stand Morrissey

Liz Cookman
 

You wouldn't give your child untested medicine, so why would you give them an untested education?

Oliver Wright
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital