The Sketch: Two big jobs for Osborne. The trouble is, both are beyond him

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The Independent Online

Continuing the end of "Punch and Judy politics," Dennis Skinner called George Osborne a cocaine user and was made to leave the chamber. Geoff Hoon declared, "clearly, whingeing is the position of the front bench opposite." Ivan Lewis yelled: "That shows why that party doesn't deserve ever to be in government!" Richard Spring demanded a minister "apologise for our national humiliation." Peter Tapsell accused the Chancellor of "punk-Keynsianism". And someone accused someone else of providing "an early example of hypocrisy and double standards". Punch said, "he should be admitting he was wrong", and Judy replied, "I thought he'd be congratulating us instead of criticising"

What are we to make of this? Has Giddy Osborne struck some tough-cop nice-cop deal with the new leader? Cameron agrees with Blair, and Giddy "holds Gordon to account"? That betrays enough brute stupidity to be truly Tory.

Giddy has two jobs to do. Both are beyond him. Until someone manages to do them, the Tories will have a nasty no-go area at their core. The first is the elusive "Clause Four" equivalent. It is to integrate Mrs Thatcher back into the Conservative story as a necessary but demented character, a creature of her time, like Joan of Arc. Acknowledge what she did (the heavy lifting) but, more important, what she failed to do (sustain public services). That, although she lacked care, concern and (puke) compassion, she allowed our useless heavy industries to be purged, and prepared the ground for 52 quarters of economic growth. Her heir was Blair. The Tories must reclaim Mrs T by showing, with an intensity that wouldn't be out of place on Oprah, that they'd never do it again like she did it. Until then, they will be cut off from their roots (and from us) by unprocessed guilt. Big job, that. But it shouldn't be beyond a shadow Chancellor. This reconciliation with the British public is linked to the New Deal, which the Tories oppose month by month, without proposing any training scheme in its place. Maybe Iain Duncan Smith will sort that out in his new role.

And the second task is also post-Punch and Judy. It is to congratulate the Chancellor on his strategy of cutting public spending. Once more, the Government is doing what the Tories are proposing, while denouncing the Tories for proposing such an evil policy. Will he get away with it again?

Giddy squawks and quacks. The Chancellor roars and bellows. One punches, the other judies. And something more interesting is very nearly happening.

NB: Treasure this example of political presentation in the Pre-Budget Report. The Chancellor calls it a "Planning Gain Supplement". It's a tax but - brilliantly - sounds entirely like a benefit.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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