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Sorry, the guy has never impressed me one iota. I once attended a private dinner at which he spoke and it was like listening to a 5th former at school reading out his economics prep. Only in a much higher voice.

He has successfully ridden the Government's incompetence and the global financial changes well. I concur that's good politics, but as a figure of calibre and stature for the global exonomy and the financial markets? Come off it.

First of all, Happy New Year to you all. It's not just the Tories that had a good end to 2007 but this site did too. Onwards..!!

Tim makes a very important point about the need for George Osborne to behave with more gravitas and not to be seen to be indulging in party politics. He can - and, given his ability, should - drive the strategy as he has done superbly at that. But both he and Cameron should be seen to be above the fray. Labour-bashing should be left to others so that Cameron and Osborne can become seen as the inevitable next two occupants of No 10 and No 11.

2008 is also the year that NuLabour wants to introduce the insidious national ID card scheme.

Happy New Year everyone!

The one big thing missing from this excellent piece is Osborne's Northern Rock performance. Cable dominated the airwaves on the issue. He had more to say. Osborne had little to offer. From our side John Redwood and Mike Fallon were much more intelligent.

I understand exactly where MH at 12.15 is coming from (and I have criticised George Osborne in the past in a similar way) but I do think that he has made huge progress in recent months. I suggested a voice coach for him a year or so ago and I do think he has lowered it somewhat and now sounds to have more gravitas.

I do despair though that the tories still let Gordon Brown get away with his spiel about being the best Chancellor ever. This is not just down to Osborne; the tories should not have let Brown get away with his deceptions and stealth over the last ten years. It is much more difficult to demolish his "legacy" now - and he has already promised that he will concentrate on the economy in 2008.

We need facts and figures that all of us can use to rebut his spurious claims.

Yes to spending restraint especially given that there's no serious public sector reform on the Tory agenda. Higher spending is an acceptable thing only if it's lubricating reforms that will bring long-term benefits. Lansley has ruled such reforms out. Gove's reforms won't need big money.

The one area where more spending is needed is defence. I'm enjoying the posts on britainandamerica and all the US presidential contenders recognise the need for more defence spending. George Osborne needs to sit down with Liam Fox and agree that tories will, over a decade, rebuild the UK armed forces.

Thanks for getting the thread going everyone and thanks for your kind words, Donal.

I largely agree with Alan on Northern Rock and everything written by Umbrella man. Keep talking everyone. It would be great if the first thread of the new years continues to be as intelligent...

The concept of sticking to Labour's spending plans should only apply to essential services. All Labour gimmicks like the failed NewDeal and bureaucratic tiers of government should be axed and any money freed up should be divided between further support for front line services and support for the supply-side of our economy. George Osborne has to give tax breaks to business, for it is business that will provide the jobs and the dynamic we need to fight our way out of the coming recession. Our chancellor-in-waiting must be sensible however and not sacrifice economic stability for transient spurts of growth led by an increased money supply. I don't look for miracles from Mr Osborne, I don't expect miracles either. As an ordinary member of the public I just want to see our economy run sensibly. Just good honest level-headed chancellorship.

Welfare reform is the one change that could be quite expensive in the short term Umbrella man. US experience certainly suggests so.

On the subject of welfare reform George Osborne must look at the bizarre tax-credit system. As it stands a person in part-time work can rake in more money through tax-credits than they would have picked up through JSA. So we have the paradox of people working getting more in benefit than those who are most needy. This is meant to act as some sort of incentive to work but in reality is a drain on the taxpayer. The tax credits system should be scrapped and replaced with straight tax cuts.

So the conclusion is that his star will only rise further if he is bolder on tax. He's not getting any new powers. What about people on the up like Shapps, Vaizey, Dorries, Lidington, Grayling, IDS, Gove etc...

Didn't the Guardian expose of the CCHQ blueprint show Osborne had the same office as DC when they moved to millbank?

George Osborne could of course be the nation's Chancellor-in-waiting, but I am yet to be convinced.
His pledge to match Labour's spending was a very bad move.

"I do despair though that the tories still let Gordon Brown get away with his spiel about being the best Chancellor ever."

David Belchamber, I agree, George Osborne allowed Brown go to his coronation without laying a glove on him, which in part contributed to the Brown bounce, but not only are George Osborne and Conservative MP's failing to dispel the myth that Gordon Brown is 'the best Chancellor ever' they are also failing to put down any economic markers, raise any issues, or nail Gordon Brown's assertion that Northern Rock came out of the blue, or at worst from the US sub prime mortgage problems. When it was the failure of Brown’s tripartite arrangement which failed, Brown's failure to heed the Bank of England Governors warnings over the issue, and the economy Brown built based on consumer debt and a bubble housing market caused by him trashing pensions and leaving property speculation the only way to get worthwhile returns.

An example the Shadow Treasury Teams failure to hold Brown and Labour to account is their response, or lack of it, to the record trade deficits we are racking up. Our current account deficit is heading towards 6% of GDP ( bigger than the US’s) yet we didn’t get a whimper out of the Osborne and company. This is going to lead to a massive devaluation of Sterling ( its already underway) which will impact on fuel prices and import inflation, all significant effects people will feel. But if Osborne and company don’t get off their backsides and point this out, people won’t hold Gordon Brown to account for it, he will still be called the ‘best chancellor ever’ so people will look to him to get us out of the economic mess he has got us into rather than the Conservatives.

Gordon Brown gets credit for having built an economy on credit, its ridiculous. I agree with the above comments that the Conservative party has been too slow in exposing Brown's ersatz-economy. Anyhow now the credit has dried up we will see the real economy under Labour.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. ;)

As it stands a person in part-time work can rake in more money through tax-credits than they would have picked up through JSA.
The simplest thing would be to have one set of benefits\Tax Credits covering people both in and out of work.

Variable rate benefits such as Housing Benefit and ones depending on what kind of property the person is living on such as Council Tax, and also things such as Social Fund Loans, as well as means of funding medical and education costs need to switch to low interest loans deductible at a minimum percentage from wages over say £10,000 pa.

The length of time to qualify for certain benefits for disability living costs needs to be lengthened and there needs to be a big push to make non-contributory benefits less than contributory ones, perhaps in addition people need to be rewarded for record of Income Tax payments and for benefits other than Pension there needs to be a longer term conideration of for relating benefit to amont of NI contributions and payments and claims over a number of years.

Holding welfare costs at or below current levels as well as simplifying the system is vital. To properly reform welfare it is desirable to be prepared to be quite ruthless and absurdly naive to rule out cutting rates of benefit for quite a number of benefits.

The ratio of earnings to benefits must be allowed to increase with most help focused on the elderley and severely disabled.

I respectfully dissent.

George Osborne has not had a good year, he had one good moment in announcing the inheritance tax cut.

And there is little to suggest that he will have a good 2008 or be an asset instead of liability to Cameron, as he has been. Indeed, the lucky break he caught with the tax cut announcement now makes it seem as though he had a good year, thus strengthening his position, although the improved poll numbers for the Tories on economic competence are almost entirely the result not of Osborne but of Labour's own incompetence and economic bad luck.

Osborne is responsible for the weakest and least effective plank of Cameroonism: the ideological cowardice vis-a-vis Labour's economics.

Osborne has conceded the intellectual argument, in the face of all available evidence to the contrary, that properly designed tax cuts do not have to be "funded" because they fund themselves. This really is key. In the first place, it is simply true, and there is a wealth of data to support it. (It's not, of course, true for all tax cuts). This is a real difference between Labour, it should be exploited.

Second, Osborne has committed himself to Labour's spending plans. This is nothing short of ABSURD. (Don't get me started on the ridiculous formula of "sharing the proceeds of growth", which to the extent there is anything coherent in there, is true socialism). If you're in favour of Labour's spending, you should and will vote for a Labour candidate. The very essence of a Tory opposition would be to oppose the essence of the Labour government. If Gordon Brown's subsidy socialism and wasteful spending cannot be attacked this emasculates the opposition, which is precisely the effect Osborne's policies have had.

And thirdly (and I say this is as someone of Osborne's generation, who suspects that Osborne privately shares many sound conservative views) the truth is that Osborne does seem a bit too young, too boyish, not sound and prudent and world-wise enough to be Chancellor and be entrusted with the country's finances. A clever boy, certainly, but if you see him on your TV-screens as a middle class voter who has trended Labour for the past general elections, will this boy really strike you as the next Chancellor? What real-world financial experience has Osborne ever had? This unfortunate effect is enhanced by the political role Osborne is required to play.

Cameron himself comes across a bit too green already. He should move Hague to the Chancellorship (or even Ken Clarke!) -- and make Osborne a powerful Chairman cum Election Coordinator.

Osborne as Shadow Chancellor is a liability. And I am sure 2008 will prove my point.

George had a good year. But can his team get a ministerial casualty from the Treasury?

If not why not?

I am not one of the converts to Boy George.

He can't help it but my primary issue is that he does look like a boy and being Chancellor is a man's job.

Of course I welcome the inheritance tax cut but it was obvious for yonks that it was a vote winner.

Boy George only did what should have been automatic. The real heroes of the inheritance tax cut business were John Redwood, Daily Express and Taxpayers Alliance.

The biggest problem facing welfare reform is that there are simply nowhere near enough jobs for every jobless person. This means there will always be a level of unemployment around the million mark. That figure becomes even higher if non-JSA benefit claimants are classed as jobless too. So it either for politicians to accept this large burden on the welfare state, or they can do some innovative to try and resolve lumpen-unemployment.

This problem is not going to go away, its been with us for thirty-five years and in all that time no government has set forward a programme to end unemployment. The problem is swept under the carpet with various patchwork schemes when what is needed is a long-term economic strategy.

Government programmes like NewDeal and Workfare do not create work, they create something for people to do while on benefit, but that is not a job. The future Conservative government must create jobs, that is the only way forward. Those who advocate standing back and letting the market create jobs for all the unemployed are living in cloud-cuckoo land. The way the British economy is set up is an invitation to unemployment.

As I've said many times the service sector cannot employ enough people for a nation of our size and we need to help our entrepreneurs to create a large manufacturing base. Until such a time government should look at creating a public works programme for the unemployed. Unless the problem of unemployment is eradicated the strain on the welfare state will continue to grow.

Thank you, Ian, at 13.56 for fleshing out my central point much more expertly than I could have done.

I also agree very much with Goldie and Jennifer; George Osborne is a very able politician and his youth has a part to play but not as Chancellor. I too have suggested Hague in the past but maybe John Redwood has the best credentials: a businessman, Fellow of All Souls (I think) and someone who can get down to the nitty-gritty.

But, of course, DC has now said that George Osborne is his Chancellor elect. A pity!

Now, I believe, is just the right time to introduce one or two more experienced ministers to give the team a bit of experience and greater punch.

David Belchamber, hopefully George Osborne will be in regular consultation with the likes of John Redwood on economic matters. Leading entrepreneurs should also be consulted so we can find out what business needs to prosper. We need to mount a public campaign to knock on the head the business making healthy profits is a bad thing. The more business can grow, the more jobs can be created, and if some people make a healthy profit in the process that is no bad thing.

First, may I suggest that boy George will look more appropriate now boy Clegg is here.

However, as had been said the issue is not just one of policies, it's who looks the most likely to deal with issues given the economic circumstances. And, like several contributions, I have trouble understsanding how Brown has been able to get away with his economic competence spin. As this particular item started one big point was the relative perception of comptetence between the parties and this has been a problem for a long time. Some would say since Black Wednesday in 1992.

Three points have been available since 1996;

Black Wednesday was the start of Britain's ecomomic turnaround, we didn't "fall out" of the ERM we kicked it in to touch. (I suggest that if Cameron was involved in leaving the ERM on Black Wednesday but not involved in going in that's a hell of a credit.)

The Tories in 1979 took Europe's highest unemployment and ended amongst the lowest in 1997.

During the 18 years there was massive increases in public sector funding, as well as tax cuts, as John Rewood has recently pointed out. We lost the last two GEs, and even 1997, because we never made this point.

Incredibly, when Brown first made his claim about his decade of economic growth, most of the time was clearly with Conserevative government or policies. Brown was handed a "golden legacy" and he bust it.

Can we please tell the country the facts then any Tory shadow Chancellor will look 22% better than Labour.

You speak for a lot of us, David at 18.48:

"Can we please tell the country the facts then any Tory shadow Chancellor will look 22% better than Labour".

We need CCHQ to put together a digest of (correct) facts to support our case on the economy and then issue it to all tory MPs, candidates and activists, so we can tell a simple story to anybody who wants to argue the case.

Brown was given a golden legacy by Ken Clarke, he maintained it for a while and then became a typical "tax and spend" labour Chancellor. He has transformed that legacy into an economy riding reasonably high on a a mountain of debt and he has very largely got away with it.

The year finished with my opinion of George Osborne markedly higher than when it started but I do agree with Donal Blaney and others that being Shadow Chancellor plus Anti Labour attack dog doesn't really work. Because of his youth Osborne needs to be seen to have gravitas and giving him party political responsibilities (which he's good at) somewhat negates that. He should have one job or the other but not both.
I'm more relaxed than the editorial about Osbornes commitment to match Labours spending commitments. It will blunt Labour attacks on 'Tory cuts' but also give Osborne the flexibility to make cuts where he sees fit but also to increase spending in those areas (defence, border security, prisons) where it is desperately needed and where most Conservatives would agree with it.

I agree with you Malcolm, my opinion of Osborne has improved greatly this year. He has certainly proven his worth if he had not already done so.

As a conservative, I'd really like to hear about how hbe will work to scale down government, spending, taxation etc etc.

But if he is willing to committ to building more prisons, increasing defense spending and securing the borders - I don't think anybody would be opposed.

Those who advocate standing back and letting the market create jobs for all the unemployed are living in cloud-cuckoo land.
It isn't about the market creating jobs for people or the state creating jobs for people.

The purpose of jobs is to get work done and that is the way to look at it, not some kind of national welfare scheme.

Public sector organisations as well as private exist to get things done according to certain remit - the military, the police, health organisations, railways, banks, shops - the purpose of these organisations is either to provide a service while attempting to hold down costs, or to make a profit.

If there isn't work for someone to do then there isn't, organisations whether public or private equally should not have people they do not want forced onto them, nor should they be bribed to take someone.

The way to decrease unemployment is sustained economic growth while minimising the regulatory burden.

There will never be zero unemployment, it is even more a flight of fancy than having absolutely stable 0% inflation, but actually small amounts of unemployment help hold down wage demands and maintain a certain amount of competition by those in the labour market otherwise what happens is that people who aren't neccessarily particularily suited to a particular job or any job end up working because there is no one else to take their place.

It's very difficult to compare unemployment figures now with ones 35 years ago, the increase in the proportion of women looking for work has had huge effects on the structure of those in work or looking for work, many sorts of people who would once have been counted as economically inactive are more frequently in the jobs market thee days. The actual claimant count under the Conservative government never went back down to where it had been at the end of the Labour government, there were over 30 changes in the way the claimant count was measured during this time and then there have been the distortions caused by attempts in the 1980s to move people off signing on onto sickness benefit followed by attempts since to move people off sickness benefits the other way. The ILO figure for unemployment is about 1.5 million but that includes many people who would never have been counted under methods the claimant count has been calculated, there were 1.5 million people on JSA in May 1997 and the latest figures were 835,000.

If only some Conservatives could look past their obsession with the E.U then Ken Clarke could be given a good large role on advising Osbourne.

Sorry, could have pointed out that in 2000, virtually entirely as a result of Tories we were 3/4/5 in the international education league tables and under Labour we are now 13/14/15. Education?Education?Education?

Apologies editor, I know, I know, I keep saying things that might encourage people to vote Conservative and obviously doing that is against party rules. I'll join Respect if that helps.

George Osborne is just another professional politician like Gordon Brown. He only worked as a political researcher and adviser before entering Parliament. Osborne lacks the necessary real world experience to be a successful Chancellor - run nothing and achieved little! He is a total lightweight compared to John Redwood -former Fellow of All Souls, Downing Street Policy Unit, Rothschild's merchant bank and Chairman of Norcros plc.

Yet Another Anon, there are severe social effects born out of unemployment, social effects which make it worth a government's while to have a public works programme. This is particularly important for young men who can easily be lured into a criminal sub-culture because they need money. That is why its important to set the focus on getting the young into work and as a priority over programmes that help the over 40s.

I agree that we need economic growth, but what do we define as growth? As economic progress. Imagine a new business sets up in the service sector, they may employ 50 people, thats good, but if a manufacturing business were set up they could well be employing 500 people. The fact is the service sector cannot provide enough jobs, only manufacturing can do this.

I guarantee that the Conservative government will not be able to alter the ratio of unemployed into work, in spite of the promise of job-matching. There are currently 600,000 vacancies, and even optimistically assuming that all those vacancies are filled there will still be around a million on JSA. The best the future Conservative government can do is introduce training, which will at least give those out of work a better chance of finding any work that is available.

The welfare debate will be an unsolvable dead-end until lumpen-unemployment is eradicated. So while there is no co-ordinated economic strategy in place the best any government can do is paper over the cracks.

I can't agree that George Osborne is an asset as Shadow Chancellor.

He just isn't cut out for the role at all. And to say that he's the politician to most look out for in 2008 just depresses me.

I'd rather see Hague in the job and move Osborne down to a lower position.

The coming economic downturn will be fertile ground for George Osborne to show how his ideas for the economy will be different and better than those of Alistair Darling. This will be an opportunity to set the case for economic competence under a Conservative government and to exorcize the demons of black wednesday. The fact that Gordon Brown keeps reverting back to black wednesday whenever he is under the cosh shows that he sees it as an ace card to play. When Brown's credit economy unravels George Osborne must be ready and willing to make a lot of noise about Labour's economic failures. Labour get away with too much because leading Conservative figures are too slow to come back with a retort. This has to change.

“The biggest problem facing welfare reform is that there are simply nowhere near enough jobs for every jobless person. ……The way the British economy is set up is an invitation to unemployment.” [Tony Makara, Jan 01, 2008 at 18:10]

I beg to differ on this.

The biggest problem facing the British economy is the Chancellor’s lack of encouragement for private enterprise especially in the SME sector and promotion of industrial growth in general. Stifling red tapes and mountains of ‘paperwork’ also need to be shed in the interest of greater efficiency and effectiveness.

The biggest problem facing welfare reform is the lack of decent and meaningful reform, although if the economy is expanded as suggested, reforms could be more readily pursued. In fact, there is a significant proportion of disability benefit claimants who should be on unemployment benefit, and therefore the figure of the jobless is substantially higher if not for the shunting of these people onto the sickness register mainly because of the higher levels of benefit. Stopping abuse of the welfare system, complicated as it is, must be matched by wide-ranging reform.

The biggest dilemma facing NHS doctors is their role in sickness certification, where they are compromised by the doctor-patient relationship and the health problem resolution services, which at times are sluggish and ineffectual.

The biggest proof for the availability of jobs comes from the rising numbers of immigrant workers. Many of the newcomers from Africa and EU countries are in long-term positions. The work ethic therefore needs to be embraced by more people. The new service industry of hand car washes is only one example of the enterprising spirit of those from abroad.

The best integral solution for the Chancellor is in a ‘joined up’ approach that considers the matters mentioned in the above four paragraphs.

"... the figure of the jobless WOULD BE substantially higher if not for the shunting of these people onto the sickness register….” [January 02, 2008 at 00:54]

Apologies for the error.

Teck, I agree that the real figure for unemployment should be much higher. As you say many people are on the wrong type of benefit. There are jobs available, but a million short of the number we need. This will continue indefinitely as long as we fail to provide wares for our home market. A country that imports goods it can produce itself is committing economic suicide.

The problem is that each government, both Labour and Conservative, puts the interests of international capital ahead of the national economic interest. There is no economic strategy to create work, no strategy to get the best deal for Britain, the only thing that exists in the eyes of subsequent governments has been the needs of the individual trader. There is no national consciousness.

The choice is simple, continuing unemployment of one to two million and massive strain on the welfare state, or a government sets out an economic strategy to deal with with this problem once and for all. Our country must become economically self-sufficient where possible, we should not be importing goods that we can produce ourselves. If we buy a foreign TV set, that provides work for a foreigner and money leaves Britain and goes abroad. If we were producing that same set ourselves, that would provide work for our people and the money generated from the sale would go to back into our country.

Tony [January 02, 2008 at 01:34], I agree with you and hope that our country maintains and improves self-sufficiency. The attrition of our industrial and manufacturing base is damaging and in the longer term weakens our economic strength with the social consequences highlighted here.

Yes, we need decisive changes.

If only some Conservatives could look past their obsession with the E.U then Ken Clarke could be given a good large role on advising Osbourne.

It's Clarke himself who has the obsession. If he had only at some point stood up and said "I personally support greater EU integration, but I appreciate that the sentiments of the Conservative Party and the country as a whole, both of which I aspire to lead, are against this, then as a true democrat I will acknowledge and bow to the will of the majority" then he could have been Tory leader and maybe even PM by now. Unfortunately he's let his ego get in the way and has always insisted that if he were in charge he would implement whatever policy pleased him regardless of how anybody else felt about it. No party could reasonably tolerate such an attitude, whatever the particular issue.

Im afraid I dont see him as a credible Chancellor. He lacks gravitas and his tactics over Northern Rock didnt work. He has been unable to define how a Conservative Government would be any different than a Labour one with the economy. He has been reluctant to advocate tax cuts despite the case having grown significantly in the past year with the press looking much more in favour than they did in 2006.

He still needs to deepen that voice. It may be a side issue, but if your voice lacks the depth, then you cant sound authoritative, no matter what you have to say.

"The coming economic downturn will be fertile ground for George Osborne to show how his ideas for the economy"

That will be too late, for being smart after the event just shows you up as being a band wagon jumper. Osbrone and his absent Shadow treasury team need to get out there, make some critical analysis of Gordon Brown's record and put down some markers. Unfortunately this will take people who are well versed in their topic of business and economics, and have an ideological idea of what they want to do, necessary talents which seem to be absent in the Shadow treasury team, but one also feels the importance of making headway here have also passed Cameron by, for it was only a couple of months ago he said the next election would be fought on social breakdown Britain rather than the economy, stupid!

If only some Conservatives could look past their obsession with the E.U then Ken Clarke could be given a good large role on advising Osbourne.
I imagine they discuss things now and again, someone doesn't have to be an official advisor to give advice, I'm sure that PM's, Presidents, Finance Ministers etc.... round the world have used informal discussions as advisory in some cases with what would be considered the most unlikely people and no one's ever heard about that particular conversation.

After a letter from a British schoolgirl about international relations had a big effect on Yuri Andropov then General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR - that received major publicity, but what about one's that the recipient never acknowledged?

If someone writes an email or letter, or has a discussion with a politician, for all they know that could become policy that very day!

there are severe social effects born out of unemployment, social effects which make it worth a government's while to have a public works programme. This is particularly important for young men who can easily be lured into a criminal sub-culture because they need money
There are severe social and economic effects caused by high levels of unemployment and for individuals and there family from long term unemployment, however the work has to be to do something - infrastructural improvements will tend to generate jobs, but if the work needs doing then people can be found to do the jobs, if it doesn't then artificially creating a job is really just a non-job, it's like the old days behind the Iron Curtain where people got paid salaries to sit in a factory with little or nothing to do - the Communist countries then claimed that there was no unemployment and ultimately their economies collapsed.

Governments have enough to take on without attempting to micro-manage people's working lives. If people commit crimes then they should be punished - locked up, tortured or executed. The police and intelligence services should be given adequate resources and powers to deal with transgressors.

Police should have special powers to investigate and detain anyone who appears to be economically inactive to determine if they are obtaining money through criminal activities including terrorism, or are involved in anti-social behaviour. Providing low level benefits avoiding the use of means testing and keeping systems as simple as possible while holding down costs and policing them effectively is one contibutor towards maintaining order. Surveillance and strict maintenance of social discipline with punishment of those who break the rules is another, and opportunity through economic growth also helps. Social stigma too though is an important way to encourage an enterprise society - in schools people need to be more encouraged to be work orientated, it's too late really when people are getting into their teens, it needs to start in Primary School - societies in India, China, Japan, Eastern Europe much more than in the UK and USA are very orientated towards pushing their children to strive for success and also maintain their social responsibilities.

Yet Another Anon [January 02, 2008 at 12:36], I couldn't agree more with everything you said, especially with your last paragraph. Inculcation of work ethic from a young age is vitally important, to be matched by shaming what Beveridge referred to as idleness.

Unfortunately, there is no sign of strong and visionary leadership to get us out of this mess, and the measures we would like to see in place are too sensible and open to accusations of fascism.

I don't like the Police State tendencies of what has been suggested - we are a democracy first - and people have the right to be stupid and wrong, and idle if they want - provided you don't have to pay for it (although we do indirectly).

But I agree with an awful lot of what you said about installing a work ethic and strong discipline at an early age.

As a Party we are currently undercooked in terms of having a coherent Welfare To Work policy. At the moment we appear to be repeating a number of Dickensian style soundbites, which John Redwood and Peter Lilley could have spouted in the early 90s.
They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. Chris Grayling and the Party Leadership have an enormous amount of work to do in this area in 2008, and the early signs have frankly not been encouraging.
A coherent W to W policy must be framed alongside a determined and practical assault on the Black Economy. For years, benefit fraud has been classed by the Left and the media as "acceptable theft" and the most basic form of wealth redistribution. People like Livingstone and Toynbee will always answer a question on welfare fraud by responding with a glib soundbite stating that they are more concerned with Goldman Sachs bonuses, or Lord Ashcroft's tax arrangements. When Michael Howard was Employment Secretary, one of the very best deterrents for Black Economy activists- and the number is staggeringly high- was the mandatory 2 week Restart course. It taught the long term unemployed virtually nothing, but you should have seen the numbers who were forced to sign off- because they could not take time off from their cash-in-hand jobs ! The Benefit Fraud Dept within the DWP remains woefully ill equipped and under resourced, and this must also be addressed by a future Tory Govt, along with stiffer sentences for benefit fraudsters, a lower threshold in terms of proving guilt, and a drastic tightening in the criteria for claiming I.B. Chris Grayling repeating a few tired old soundbites about forcing single mums back to work will just re-inforce the impression that we want to send little kids up chimneys again.

As for George Osborne, he has done better since October, but then he had to because otherwise his position was becoming untenable. My one concern with him is one of tone- as with the gaffe on potentially taxing Mums to shop at Tescos using the car, we have to be very wary as a Party of not giving the impression that we are Trust Fund recipients lecturing the hard pressed majority on how to live. I am not convinced David Cameron has yet grasped this as a potential issue.

I do wish he'd say something about Basel 2. Today is the first day that financial institutions must comply to the new regulations, and already we have London Scottish Bank on the ropes. There will be many more. B2 is at least in part responsible for the P&L hits taken by the big banks last year, and will have more severe and far-reaching affects than politicians seem to realise, or bother to understand. It is frustrating that Osborne seems to be one of them.

Redwood or Fallon for me.

YouGov 29/5/08
Tories lead Labour by 24%
They are 17% ahead on Economic Competence.

Cue ConHome Jeremias:

Osborne looks like a boy.
His voice isn't deep enough.
He lacks gravitas.
Bring back Hague.
Bring back Redwood.

I hope Osborne treats you with the contempt you deserve.

Wait a minute, 'john'.

The Tories lead by 24% overall, but only by 17% on the economy?

Doesn't that mean that /at least/ 7% of our current support thinks we're crap on the economy?

The question is why so many people willing to give us a chance don't take Boy George seriously?

He's too political, as the Editor says, and we need a proper heavyweight in there.

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