I don’t particularly like writing about current events or stuff in the news unless it pees me off or I think it’s interesting and needs sharing. Stuff like that tends to get really old and out of date very quickly and a few weeks down the line it makes no sense. Added to that peop,le outside Britain don’t really give a stuff. This however, is one of those cases where I find it very interesting… I’m talking about the very reason George Osborne is STILL Chancellor of the Exchequer.
A bit of background to begin with. Osborne was first elected as the MP for Tatooine in 2001, previously having worked as a civil servant at Conservative Central Office. His jobs included being special advisor in the ministry of food and William’s Hague’s speech writer. In 2004 he became chief secretary to the treasury and a year later after the 2005 election Michael Howard chose him as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Now curiously, Osborne wasn’t Howard’s first choice for the role. He was third, after both Hague and Cameron refused the job. Interestingly, Cameron allegedly refused it on the grounds that he thought the role was beneath him, which says a lot about Cameron really. Notice it was Howard who selected him… The same Michael Howard who announced his resignation the day after the election. I want you to think on this for a second. At the time of the appointment Howard knew he was leaving and he knew that whoever he picked would stand a good chance of being replaced by the new party leader. My theory is that he after two rejections he decided he would just pick any poor sap on the grounds that whoever he picked wouldn’t really matter. So he selected Osborne. Not because of his economic prowess or his experience in the shadow cabinet, he’d only been there a year remember, but because he was there and the job was only likely to be a temporary one. Whoever followed Howard a few months down the line would want their own chancellor. It is likely that Howard only selected Osborne on this basis, as a temporary stand in.
Enter David Cameron. A complete outsider and virtual unknown amongst the general public. Like Osborne he was only elected to Parliament in 2001 and only entered the Shadow Cabinet, officially, in June of 2004. David Cameron was by far the most inexperienced candidate during the 2005 Conservative leadership campaign and yet somehow he still managed to beat off the other contenders. And this inexperience is curious as it crops up quite a bit in that Shadow Cabinet created by Michael Howard after the 2005 election. A huge majority of them had no previous government experience. out of thirty cabinet posts at least thirteen of them had no previous government experience. That might not sound like a lot but it almost amounts to half of the Shadow Cabinet… HALF! I could accept maybe seven or eight in lower positions. But thirteen and some of them in very important positions? Like his Shadow Chancellor for instance. It strikes me that Howard was deliberately trying to shut out the older Conservatives.
Interestingly enough, of the ones who had previous government experience a big number were elected in 1992. So even then, you could argue that they didn’t have a lot of experience. And yes, I know they say that time moves faster in politics, but there had only been two elections since the Conservatives lost office and MPs don’t change around that often, on the whole. A lot of the older experienced MPs had gone, definitely, but there were still plenty who had more government experience than most of Howard’s cabinet put together. There were a lot more ‘ government experienced’ Conservatives than there were in 2010. In 2005 it wasn’t like when Labour came to power when they had been out of it for eighteen years. Although even then, Blair had quite a few cabinet members who had been around for a fair while and presumably had a good idea of their job description, particularly in the top ranks. And whenever Blair did do a reshuffle he always at least had experienced people in the positions that mattered. Say what you like about Blair but at least he was reasonably sensible when it came to cabinet appointments (even if they did ultimately make a mess!). One more thing- Michael Howard completely shuffled his cabinet three times in eighteen months. Make of that what you will.
Which brings me back to George Osborne and David Cameron. David Cameron, inexperience and all, was elected as leader of the conservatives and the entire shadow cabinet changes- apart from one of the most important positions, the position of Shadow Chancellor. Michael Howard’s third choice remained in his position and after the 2010 election he emerged from the shadows. In a matter of nine years this man had gone from being a new MP, albeit one who’d written William Hague’s speeches, to getting the second highest position in Government. (Ok… So with Cameron it’s even worse but let’s not talk about that now.) And yet… Osborne is barely qualified to run the economy, at least compared to everyone else in the cabinet. Most of the other cabinet members of some sort of economic background. A lot of them studied Economics as part of their degree (which were mostly undertaken at Oxford and Cambridge, go figure…). Osborne is one of the few who didn’t. His degree was entirely Modern History. I can’t argue with that but a Modern History degree is hardly a qualification for running the entire economy. He had no experience of economics before entering the cabinet. The closest he ever came to economics was folding towels in Selfridges and the only experience he’s had since has been criticising Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Before 2010 he had never managed even a small business, let alone the entire country’s economy. As a case in point, the only economic experience Gordon Brown had before becoming Chancellor was remarkably similar, though he had a bit more experience than Osborne. Look what happened there though… The economy collapsed!
So why is Osborne even in cabinet? Is it because David Cameron is even more useless at cabinet appointments than Michael Howard? I found several people in his first shadow cabinet who were only elected in 2005… Which doesn’t even qualify them for being a back-bencher let alone a place in shadow cabinet. I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s more to do with the fact that Osborne is like the Wormtongue to Cameron’s Saruman. He’s a cronie, nothing more than a boot licker… He’ll do whatever Cameron says without question, particularly in regards to economic matters which he knows very little about. It’s all to do with cronyism, a facet we once saw with Tony Blair (Yeah… They had more experience but they were still cronies!) and are now seeing once again with Cameron. Cameron doesn’t want someone who knows how to run the economy, he wants someone who’ll do whatever he tells them to. Someone who knows about the economy is going to argue against him and want to push things their own way. They wouldn’t let Cameron push them around. Osborne is nothing more than a yes man. His lack of experience in economic matters is perfect as it means Cameron can manipulate and control him, get him to do what he wants him to do… That is Cameron to a tee. He’s an Eton posh boy who’s used to getting things his own way and if he doesn’t then he probably throws a tantrum.
And that’s what the latest reshuffle is all about… It’s Cameron ousting the people who’ve argued against him and bigging up those who fawn all over him. Look at Justine Greening, the former transport secretary. She’s been pushed into another job after recently arguing against the third runway at Heathrow. And Ken Clarke, a man who is clearly very opinionated and not easily pushed around… He’s been pushed lower down into a virtually insignificant post where he can’t do much to stamp on David Cameron’s ambitions. And the increasingly unpopular Jeremy Hunt… Promoted despite recent calls for his head. Hunt strikes me as a crawler so it’s no wonder that he’s been pushed up. I bet Cameron actually loves him for it.
Cameron is lording it over a presidential style of government, one where everyone does as he says and they fawn all over him. I bet most of the Lib Dems in cabinet barely get a word in edgeways most of the time. I’m also betting they’re the ones that are most submissive to the Tory rule, Vince Cable being one notable exception.
But what about Osborne? Where does that leave him? There is a historical precedent, a chancellor who knew very little about economics, appointed by an out of touch, ineffective Prime Minister purely on the basis of being a boot licker. I’m talking about Selwyn Lloyd, Harold Macmillan’s chancellor between 1960 and 1962. Then, as now, the country was in economic turmoil. Lloyd’s policies were very unpopular, in particular one called the ‘pay pause’ which was designed to save industry a year’s worth of wage rises. However, unlike Osborne Lloyd had a backbone and he reputedly clashed with Macmillan about economic policy on a number of occasions and thus, he was sacked during what was termed ‘The night of the long knives.’ Unfortunately, the same has not become of Osborne, simply because he has no backbone. He won’t lose his job until either Cameron is booted from office and replaced as leader of the Conservatives or he grows a backbone. The latter looks likely not to happen and the alternative for the former is just as bleak as the current situation…