This morning – and running a little late, as it’s been raining in Shanghai – the Andy Marr show featured an interview with the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne (heir to the seventeenth Baronet), who, on current polling data, is set to occupy 11 Downing Street some time next year.
As the interview progressed, I had a déjà vu moment. It was David Cameron. Or, rather, it was Cameron’s gesture. As questions were being asked, Osborne affected that same concerned-yet-attentive slight frown. Also, when answering, there was a noticeable restraint, less of the aren’t-I-clever of old, with a measured delivery, and – God strike down Tony Blair for bringing this to politics – a few “y’knows” as well. We were being presented with a more acceptable and ordinary Osborne. It was a triumph of presentation over substance, the Coulson claptrap machine clearly in overdrive.
Because what there was not was any specific commitment to where spending cuts might fall, nor how the adverse effect on tax revenues of having more unemployment would be dealt with. We were, though, told that Osborne and Cameron were “fiscal conservatives”, which may sound snappy, but in reality leads back to spending cuts. Saying someone is “fiscally conservative” is a fancy way of saying that they’re tight.
What there was, of course, was the on-message pinning of all woes on Pa Broon, with the added twist that any spending cuts that a future Osborne-as-Chancellor made wouldn’t be his, but Brown’s. This was industrial strength drivel of the highest order.
Labour should be able to pick apart such flannel with ease, but the party has got itself mired in whatever-the-media-is-calling-it-todaygate – and for that they have only themselves to blame. In the meantime, blatant careerists like Osborne have a clear road to make the running, without needing the skills of Sebastian Vettel.
And what of the Lib Dems? The prosaic reality is as before: Clegg and Co need to make themselves heard over the tabloid Tory approach. Whether or not you like the Tories, what they are doing is working right now.
And I really mean that.