Conservative Diary

« Angela Merkel has given David Cameron a great opportunity to renew his Eurosceptic credentials | Main | ICM puts Tories 8% ahead »

George Osborne deserves our support

Two-and-a-half years ago I argued that George Osborne should be a powerful party chairman and it wasn't sensible for him to hold two jobs at a time of economic crisis. But if that was my view then I don't think it sensible for commentators like Simon Heffer - in the Telegraph today - to be calling for a different Shadow Chancellor at this point. One could almost be forgiven for thinking Mr Heffer didn't have the party's best interests at heart! Let us not forget that it was Simon Heffer who savaged Boris Johnson on the eve of his polling day battle with Ken Livingstone.

It's fashionable to knock George Osborne but let's remember the enormous good he has done the party as Shadow Chancellor.

Osborne-HeadshotExhibit one is that inheritance tax cut of October 2007. Osborne and Andy Coulson led the rebellion against über-modernisers. The IHT cut - described by The Spectator as "the single most effective policy ever announced by the Conservatives in Opposition" - saved the Conservative Party's electoral bacon during Brown's honeymoon - much more, said Tory members, than Cameron's great speech or Brown's opportunistic trip to Iraq.

Exhibit two is Osborne's call on the budget deficit. Almost alone in the world the British Conservatives bravely rejected a large fiscal stimulus. George Osborne advocated monetary activism, and fiscal responsibility. He opposed the VAT cut and was proved right. All the VAT cut did was add to the deficit. Labour's fiscal splurge did not stop Britain experiencing the deepest and longest of recessions.

Exhibit three is his corporation tax agenda. Over the next few years, if the Tories win office, he plans a comprehensive simplification of the tax system and progressive cuts in corporation tax. His ambition is to make Britain the ideal HQ for global business. We certainly need that scale of ambition if we are to tackle the balance of payments crisis highlighted by Civitas today. In addition, I expect him to quickly reverse Labour's 50p tax band.  

Exhibit four is his economic liberalism. Behind-the-scenes too many Tories have been arguing for heavily interventionist policies, including inteference with wage freedom. Others have wanted heavy green taxes. Osborne has been the leading opponent of such red Toryism. He understands that such measures would kill the chance of Britain growing its way out of the deficit.

Exhibit five may be to come... In the next few days - now that Darling has played his Budget card - George Osborne will announce whether he's been successful in his ambition to find a way of stopping Labour's job-destroying hike in National Insurance. I'm hopeful that he has found a way of avoiding that tax attack on hard-working families. Peter Hoskin was encouraged by the prospect; he called it a glass of clear, blue water. The Tories will then go into the election with at least four tax cut pledges; freezing council tax, abolishing IHT for non-millionaires, recognising marriage in the tax system (perhaps for parents of early years children); and stopping Labour's NICs rise. We'll know soon enough.

So, in conclusion, you can judge George Osborne on his media performances (which are not always perfect) or you can judge him on the big judgment calls (where he has been impressive). In the forty days and forty nights until election day we now need to get behind him.

Tim Montgomerie


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.