The Sketch: Grumpy and toothless: the Conservative front bench

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The Independent Online

What a row of grim faces on the Tory front bench. Despite any and all efforts to look like winners, the whole team has the air of Eric Pickles. Poor George Osborne looked bankrupt. His credit collapsed. The Prime Minister is right (it's the last time I'll use those words): it's all George Osborne's fault.

He's the shadow Chancellor, and this is a Treasury story. It's been told so poorly that the Government sense they might win a fourth term. Cameron was sent into the Chamber – not naked exactly, but almost. High above in the Peer's Gallery, George's nemesis Lord Mandelson gazed down, looking as stern and stony as a statue of himself. Lords clustered round him. He sat among them but not quite of them. A Renaissance cardinal among woolly bishops.

Cameron stood up, his summer glow gone. He did so on the ground prepared by George. What a bog. When George said a week or two ago that government spending would prevent interest rates falling, we got the single largest drop in history. When he said spending would cause a run on sterling, it had already happened.

But most serious of all, when the Prime Minister lays out his plan for "helping people through these difficult times", neither he nor Cameron have the appetite, the attack, the cutlery and the sheer cannibalistic vigour to eat him live on TV.

Cameron can't create a Tory war of words that makes everyone feel comfortable and Gordon look ridiculous. The Prime Minister is clearly raving but his world has an internal logic. "Helping people fairly through difficult times" may act as an emetic on many people but what's the Tory equivalent?

It is the persistent theme of Tories in opposition. Insufficient thinking. This recession wasn't unexpected. How were they planning to deal with it? They weren't. They just expected it to destroy the Prime Minister (and they still do).

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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