Brian Monteith: Osborne's coat on a shooglier peg now

NO man in the House of Commons has a greater impertinence than the Chancellor George Osborne. The man who said in 2010 that he would have cleared the deficit and be reducing our debt by 2015 is still coming to the despatch box promising to do the same four years later.

Friday, 18th March 2016, 12:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd March 2016, 10:57 am
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. File picture: Darren Staples/Getty Images

The public finances are a disgrace and he has missed yet another target and broken his second fiscal rule by doing so. The figures for economic growth that he gave in December are already being reviewed down, the result being that revenues to the exchequer will be poorer.

Having announced in the Autumn Statement that he would shelve the cuts he was previously going to make on the basis of those figures, he has had to make yet more cuts to public spending.

If he was an astrologer on breakfast television he would have been sacked long ago for dodgy predictions.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Frankly he is becoming a laughing stock. His reputation for prudence is shot to pieces and it is now clear that the economy is recovering despite him rather than because of him.

His authority is weakening and the chances of him becoming prime minister are fading – which must be considered good news as I would hate to think how he would handle defence, foreign affairs and look after our national interests.

So bad is the government’s financial position that to disguise the bad news he had to find a couple of distractions and he did it by slapping a levy on sugary drinks and concocting a ridiculous warning about leaving the European Union. Predictably the media gave a big splash to the gimmick, leaving less room to report what a dreadful mess the Chancellor has got himself into.

The cheek of the man knows no limits. The last person we should listen to about economic forecasts is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has been wrong so often and had to revise his figures so much that he is on the way to becoming the worst and least reliable Chancellor in post war history.

After he sat down and journalists had the opportunity to quiz the Office of Budget Responsibility (a name that itself is now highly ironic and inappropriate) it was established the OBR had not conducted any research or forecasting of its own but was merely parroting studies by a selection of other economists. It was accepted that there are many studies that can show leaving the EU would be beneficial to our economy but these had simply been ignored. The warnings of the Chancellor were therefore worthless, unbalanced and without full consideration of the available evidence.

The reaction on the Tory backbenches to all of this bluster was less than supportive and there can be little doubt that Osborne’s chances against the likes of Boris Johnson or even an outsider like the charming but impressive Priti Patel are weakening by the day. Osborne should enjoy his remaining time in 11 Downing Street for the chances of him ever moving to No.10 are as likely as his own targets being met.

Corbyn’s rising to the challenge

The reply to the Chancellor’s Budget by the Leader of the Opposition is one of the hardest speeches to deliver in the House of Commons. Unlike ministerial statements, where advance sight of the content is provided, there is no preparation. Not since Margaret Thatcher has there been an opposition leader with a better grasp of economics than the presiding Chancellor and so there is always the chance of an embarrassing gaffe.

Not on this occasion! Jeremy Corbyn had some very good lines prepared that wiped the smug smile off George Osborne’s face; he sounded passionate about what he was saying and for once he was smartly dressed with a crisp blue suit, white shirt and red tie. It was almost as if he had had a makeover.

Those that think Corbyn will not last until 2020 should think again. The man is getting better and will pose a real threat to the next Tory leader.

Jamie’s joy is bitter sweet

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver was one person who liked the Budget, if only because his pet scheme to have a sugar tax introduced to help fight obesity was announced. It will not make a single child any lighter but it will make the cost of living more expensive for people far poorer than him.

Sugar consumption is actually falling, the tax

itself is not going to be punitive enough to change the behaviour of people (they will simply buy cheaper brands) and it has never worked in any other country where it has been tried.

Yet a look at the recipes for cakes and deserts in Jamie Oliver’s recipe books shows that a single portion can offer children more than the daily recommended intake of sugar – now that’s what I call hypocrisy.

Hibees ‘n’ lows

I have now seen Hibs lose six cup finals at Hampden but it does not get any easier. I can only console myself by reasoning that following a team like Hibs has been the ideal preparation for handling life’s real challenges with all its ups and downs, shocks and surprises. And now I have to go through it all again with another semi-final on 16 April. No wonder I have high blood pressure!