By Peter Hoskin
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Conservative minister in a spot of bother? Step forward the Liberal Democrat Lord Oakeshott to aggravate the situation. He's already called for Jeremy Hunt to resign this year, and now he's sharpening his knives at George Osborne. Speaking to The World At One, he said:
“Any business failing its key objective like this would change its strategy or its management or probably both … Britain should do the same now with a bold plan A-plus. We need our A team at the Treasury.”
Of course, Oakeshott and Osborne have previous. It was only a few weeks ago that he was saying the Chancellor should “focus now totally on the day job”. And, before that, he departed from the Treasury team in protest at Project Merlin.
But there's another element too, other than Oakeshott's distaste for Mr Osborne: his support for his political confidant Vince Cable. What he once hinted at — e.g. when he said, in June, that both Osborne and Danny Alexander “are very young … and neither have worked in business before” — he is now more open about. Indeed, he said that Cable should be made Chancellor in the same World at One interview today. Prospect magazine recently claimed that the Lib Dem peer is making it known that he expects Cable to to party leader within a year.
“A senior Lib Dem explained the bond between the two men: ‘both [Vince Cable and Lord Oakeshott] share a loathing of big wealth and those that have it – even though Oakeshott’s pretty well-off.’ The same source said that he estimated that Oakeshott speaks on Vince’s actual behalf ‘about half the time,’ but ‘the other half [is] freelancing.’”
So is Oakeshott freelancing? Or is this on his friend's actual behalf? At the very least, after Cable's interview with the FT at the weekend, it's clear that something's afoot.