It seems that the handbags are being prepared for use once again: what looked yesterday like a routine act of politicking has developed into another spat between the latest odd couple of Westminster, the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne (heir to the seventeenth Baronet) and Pa Broon’s new best friend Lord Mandelson of Indeterminate Guacamole.
The Shadow Chancellor had apparently been trying to get an extract of information from one particular Government database – and in a form that would have been more useful to him than what is on offer (the information is all available, but anyone wanting all of it would have one rather long collating job to do). His request was declined by the Cabinet Secretary: this kind of information extract is not normally available to the opposition.
Following this rebuttal, Osborne then did an interview with the Beeb’s Nick Robinson where he said, unequivocally, that Pa Broon was personally behind the refusal. Ho hum. Osborne’s statement may have been untrue, but the idea of personalising everything as being Brown’s fault is the fuel that feeds the Coulson claptrap machine: nothing has changed since the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, where any kind of issues based campaign was replaced by the tedious repetition of “Send Gordon Brown a message”. The result was that the constituency was landed with Edward Timpson (the man with marginally more charisma than a Burton’s dummy).
The story may have died there and then – the Tory idea of pinning everything on Pa Broon is, I suspect, equally yawn inducing whether you’re in Crewe or Westminster – had it not been for Mandelson’s very deliberate intervention this morning. Mandy didn’t actually call Osborne a liar, but he did say that the heir to the seventeenth Baronet had uttered a “deliberate untruth”, which is, shall we say, a currency of equivalent value.
And Mandelson has demanded a retraction of Osborne’s assertion, which should be interesting to watch, given that the Shadow Chancellor doesn’t do retractions, whether the demand comes from Pa Broon or Nat Rothschild. But an old political hand like Mandy wouldn’t expend the energy doing the rounds of the TV studios to no purpose. So what’s his game?
Whatever that game, it’s probably not over just yet.