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Lord Oakeshott's old criticisms of George Osborne take on a new significance, since Cable-as-Liberal-Democrat leader could collapse the Coalition

By Paul Goodman
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In one sense the regular attacks on the Chancellor by Lord Oakeshott are the oldest of old hat.  He is always launching them.  Yesterday's attack was reported by the BBC, never slow to offer his Lordship a platform, and is re-cycled in today's Daily Express and elsewhere.  Lord Oakehott said:

“George Osborne has got no business experience. He has never worked outside politics. He is doing surprisingly well for a chancellor on work experience. But really in a torrid time like this I think we do need absolutely the best people available.”

So far, so predictable.  After all, his Lordship has left the Governent front bench and makes no secret of his preference, all else being equal, for the Liberal Democrats to govern with Ed Miliband.  So for that matter has a more important Liberal Democrat - Lord Oakeshott's old friend Vince Cable, though he has always said that the Coalition should last until the next election, and he has always been careful to sign up to George Osborne's Plan A.

He has also been careful to distance himself from his friend today, as the Independent's report indicate - and impression his carelessness (if this it was) on Newsnight yesterday evening will undermine.  But whether or not his lordship is really casting any light upon Dr Cable's mind about the Coalition's future in this Parliament, what matters is that it is widely believed that he is.

And this belief will wax stronger after the Business Secretary's refusal last weekend to rule himself out of a future Liberal Democrat leadership contest. Peter Hoskin made this point very strongly on this site yesterdayAs Tim has pointed out, this was a watershed moment - not least in giving a new dimension to his Lordship's canvassing for Dr Cable to be sent to the Treasury - he wants double-hatting for the Business Secretary, then, as well as old hat - and to his apparent wish to see the Coalition end sooner rather than later.