Osborne and his back seat drivers
As you by now know George Osborne is the new chancellor of exhcequer succeeding Alistair Darling. He takes on the role at an historically bad time. The Budget deficit, £166bn, has never been higher in peace time and moves into No 11 after an appalling recession triggered by an almost catastrophic banking crisis and credit crunch.
All those elements go to place Osborne in a unique position. No chancellor has arrived in office to find himself facing such a difficult set of circumstances.
But there is another reason why Osborne is in a position like no other chancellor – he has so many would be chancellors around him in the cabinet.
The Treasury team will, we expect, include Vince Cable, the Lib Dem shadow chancellor, who has an enormous following and reputation as a economic thinker and policy maker. That’s potential back set driver number one. Then there’s Ken Clarke, former chancellor under Margaret Thatcher and brought into the current Conservative team to shore-up its policy making – add some steal, so to speak.
That’s another potential back seat driver.
How will this triangular formation work? Each is a strong personality. Two are highly experienced while the main in the driving seat is a relative newcomer. Will he seek their counsel or attempt to rule alone?
This is a difficult one for Osborne. He needs to be his own man but the economic circumstances in which he finds him suggest that he will need all the advice he can get.
If anything having Clarke around could strengthen his resolve in the face of pressure from Cable. But he wouldn’t want anyone to think Clarke is making the decisions and pulling the strings.
If we know anything at this stage it is that watching these three personalities feel their way through the development of tax and economic policy will be fascinating.