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By Peter Hoskin
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One
of the most important leitmotifs of this Parliament has been the shift in
attitudes towards George Osborne. Once, Tory backbenchers regarded him as the
solid backbone of the Cameroon project, a man who was more personable and practical
than the party leader. Now, they’re more likely to complain about him and his
policies.

To
some extent, it was ever going to be thus: Mr Osborne is, after all, operating at
a time of severe economic distress, and in coalition with the Lib Dems too. But
the Chancellor has still harmed himself, at times. The discontent began in
earnest after last year’s wobbly Budget, and through last summer. I wrote about
it at the time for
the Times (£)
.

Yet
things have become even worse over recent months. Further economic contraction,
the precariousness of the fiscal rules, and the Treasury’s refusal to implement
such measures as the marriage tax break have all fuelled dissatisfaction with
Mr Osborne. The inheritance tax freeze is a just a fresh aggravation. Tory MPs
are increasingly saying in public what
the Daily Telegraph said in its editorial
on Saturday.


This
isn’t to say that Osborne is on the way out – far from it. The Chancellor is
too bound up with the Coalition’s economic policy, and its politics, to be
jettisoned now. Besides, he has allies all
across Government
.  

But
the Tory leadership should certainly be wary of this new mood. Internal party
divide is never a good look, particularly when it concerns the main issue of
the day and of the next election, which is the economy. I’d be surprised if Mr
Osborne isn’t thinking even more vigorously about measures that—public finances
permitting—could regain the support of backbenchers, as well as of the country.
 

As
it happens, this hunt for ‘trump cards’ is a theme of Rachel
Sylvester’s column (£)
today. She concludes:

‘One
Government strategist says that Mr Osborne is at his best when he has to find a
trump card against the odds. “If I had to bet on anyone to have an ace in his
hand I would put my chips on George,” he says. The Chancellor will, however,
need more than luck on his side to get a royal flush when he delivers the Budget
in six weeks’ time.’

Myself,
I think it’s yet more reason for Mr Osborne to consider Robert
Halfon’s proposal
for the reinstatement of the 10p tax rate.

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