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What George Osborne will now do to Mervyn King

by Paul Goodman

Screen shot 2010-12-01 at 11.58.32 Three quick points about Mervyn King, the American Ambassador, Wikileaks - and George Osborne/David Cameron.

First, we don't know what King told the Ambassador.  What we know is what the Ambassador says King told him.  The two aren't the same thing.

Second - before myth becomes memory - King didn't say (according to the Ambassador) that Cameron and Osborne were "out of their depth", complain about the latter's high-piched voice, or claim that he was "lightweight and inexperienced".

The key parts, for our purposes, of what the Ambassador wrote are as follows -

  • "King expressed great concern about Conservative leaders' lack of experience and opined that Party leader David Cameron and Shadow Chancellor George Osborne have not fully grasped the pressures they will face from different groups when attempting to cut spending."
  • "David Cameron and George Osborne do not fully grasp the pressures they will face when attempting to cut back on spending, when "hundreds of government officials will make pleas of why their budgets should not be reduced", stated King."
  • "King also expressed concern about the Tory party's lack of depth. Cameron and Osborne have only a few advisors, and seemed resistant to reaching out beyond their small inner circle."

Let's presume, for the sake of the argument, that King really did say all this.  If so, he was scarcely revealing the missing part of the Da Vinci Code.  Bank Governors gossip to Ambassadors, and vice-versa.  Some of the gossip gets passed on and, like most gossip, is exaggerated as this happens.  That's life.

So if King told the Ambassador that Cameron and Osborne "seem resistant to reaching out beyond their small inner circle", the Ambassador could have responded (and perhaps did) with the words of Horatio: "There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave/To tell us this."

So here's what Osborne will do when he next speaks to King.  He'll reassure King that he knows the Ambassador was exaggerating.  He'll say that these things happen.  He'll reiterate that King has the highest talents, superb abilities, don't know what we'd do without you, first class chap etc.

But - Osborne being Osborne - he'll find some velvet means (too subtle for me to anticipate, let alone describe) of indicating displeasure.  Not that he's really unhappy, as I say, unless King's crossed him over some important matter.

Rather, he'll simply want, in an understated way, to show King who's boss, remind him who's in charge, flex his muscles just a little, fire a shot across King's bows - in short, warn him off saying anything to anyone more damaging than what he may have told the Ambassador.

And when the phone call is terminated or King slouches from the room, Osborne will lean back in his chair, throw his head back, and laugh...and laugh...and laugh...


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