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George Osborne's Despatch Box demolition of "deficit denier" Alan Johnson

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 27 After George Osborne's statement on the Comprehensive Spending Review, there was a response by newly-installed shadow chancellor, Alan Johnson - to which the Chancellor himself in turn got the chance to reply.

The broadcasters were busy analysing the main statement itself by this stage, but it's worth quoting here some of George Osborne's demolition of Johnson - and it would appear that one of the Chancellor's aides had sight of the same email from Alan Johnson which I reported on yesterday afternoon here.

Osborne said of his opposite number:

"He’s a nice guy, but he’s in the wrong job. The truth is this: frankly, either member of the Balls family would have done a lot better than that, and they might even have asked me a question or two, but let me try to respond to what he said.

"The right hon. Gentleman keeps talking about a plan B, but he has not even got a plan A. There was a complete denial of the fact that this country has the largest budget deficit in the G20. He made no acknowledgement of the fact that the credit rating agencies were looking at this country when he was in the Cabinet and no acknowledgement of the fact that our market interest rates were the same as Spain rather than others. Frankly, he spent half his statement defending the economic policy of the last Labour Prime Minister — who perhaps could have turned up to hear it — but that is totally irrelevant to the questions put before the House today and the proposals that we have set out.

"The right hon. Gentleman kept saying, 'We want to reduce the deficit'. As far as I could tell, he did not agree with a single measure that I set out. He did not propose a single saving. He is a deficit denier, and the truth is this:

"We have been told for a whole year that we would get Labour’s deficit reduction plan. Before the election, let us remember, we were told in the debates, 'Don’t worry, it’ll come after the election.' During the leadership contest, we were told that it would come after the leadership contest. After the leadership contest, we were told that it would come before the spending review, and then this morning, a member of the shadow Cabinet said on the radio, 'We are not going to do an alternative to the spending review'.

"I then got this message in the Chamber that said that at eight minutes past 1 this afternoon, when the shadow Chancellor was actually in the Chamber, he sent an e-mail to members of the public saying 'I’m going to be honest with you, being in opposition... does mean we have to set out a clear alternative', and he then said, 'Please share your thoughts with us'.

"Labour Members were in government until six months ago. They sat round the Cabinet table as the deficit increased. Six months later, they have not put forward a single idea for reducing the budget deficit. It is absolutely pathetic."

I wonder if Ed Miliband is yet regretting his choice of shadow chancellor...


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