What would George Osborne be doing if he was a Conservative rather than a Coalition Chancellor? It's time for him to say so.
By Tim Montgomerie
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This morning's newspapers are full of advice for George Osborne and that advice leads this morning's newslinks. Most agree that the Chancellor should cut current spending more deeply and therefore become able to afford pro-enterprise tax cuts and also more spending on infrastructure and construction.
Despite some of the more excitable headlines in today's papers Boris Johnson is not urging the Chancellor to junk the substance of his deficit reduction policy. In the interview I uploaded earlier this morning the Mayor of London makes it clear that he supports Mr Osborne's spending envelope but suggests that the language may need to be more optimistic - and less hair shirt. The Mayor wants those famous animal spirits that drive economic confidence to be released.
John Redwood provides perhaps the most essential reading this morning. Let's be clear, he tells his blog readers: We don't have a tough austerity regime. Britain is experiencing one of its biggest ever Keynesian policy expansions. Even with the deficit down by a quarter the deficit is bigger as a percentage of GDP than during the recession of the early 1990s. If over £100 billion of government borrowing does not equal a stimulus, then what does?
What I don't know is whether George Osborne secretly agrees with Redwood and I'd dare say most Tory MPs and free market thinkers. We know his policies aren't the same as Redwood's but is that by choice or because of the Coalition?
We've had an important speech from the Prime Minister in the last week, setting out a distinctively Conservative European policy. It's time we had a speech from George Osborne - standing before us as Tory economic spokesman rather than as Coalition Chancellor. It's time 'the submarine man' rose from the hidden depths and told us what he'd ideally do if he was Chancellor of a Conservative government. Let's hear him talk about where he would take the country's tax system, airports policy, investment in science and what he'd do with the banks if he wasn't limited by Cable and Clegg. Even if the Coalition's compromised economic policies aren't going to change any time soon let's at least be shown some light at the end of the tunnel. Let's also put some public pressure on our Coalition partners. They, after all, aren't afraid to publicly differentiate themselves.