George Osborne was on Channel 4 News a little earlier. He launched an effective attack on Douglas Alexander’s mishandling of the voting procedures for the last Scottish elections. A report today has recommended sweeping changes to the ways in which Scotland’s elections were managed. The report’s independent Canadian author accused the Scottish Office and Scottish Executive of being "frequently focused on partisan political interests". This, of course, fits the pattern we have seen since the Brownites took charge of all Whitehall – politics comes first, second and third.
Scottish Secretary at the time of the Scottish voting fiasco was Douglas Alexander. He was also Transport Secretary. Mr Alexander still has two jobs today – he’s International Development Secretary but also Labour’s General Election coordinator.
Mr Osborne fairly questioned whether Mr Alexander should be undertaking two roles at the same time.
Hmmm. The small problem is that Mr Osborne is hardly Mr Focused. He’s not only Shadow Chancellor. He’s also the Tories’ own General Election coordinator. He’s often undertaking the political combat roles that would normally be undertaken by the party chairman. Our party chairman was pretty absent from the airwaves in the aftermath of Chicken Saturday (Mr Osborne led the Tory charge at the time and very effectively). Yesterday, when the Today programme, wanted a defence of Lord Ashcroft’s funding of the target seats campaign, they turned to our former chairman, Francis Maude.
So, where am I going with all of this? George Osborne is undoubtedly very able and worth multiple Douglas Alexanders but he shouldn’t be trying to be Shadow Chancellor and also be Chairman. David Cameron should put him in sole charge of CCHQ. Mr Cameron currently has three Chairmen. He has Osborne managing big picture preparations for the General Election. He has Lord Ashcroft overseeing marginal seats and polling. He has Caroline Spelman as the official Chairman. Many insiders tell me that this is unworkable in the medium term. Reporting lines are unclear. One person should be in charge of the Tory campaigning machine and Lord Ashcroft should report to that person. Caroline Spelman was excellent in the local government post and should be moved to a similar shadow cabinet position.
I don’t know about the other replacement moves but in my fantasy new shadow cabinet I’d like to see William Hague become Shadow Chancellor. David Lidington could move from being Hague’s number two to become Shadow Foreign Secretary. He certainly has the ability.
My guess is that this won’t happen but David Cameron has probably never been stronger as Tory leader. He should be taking these tough decisions. After George’s recent IHT triumph it wouldn’t look like he was being moved because he hadn’t been a good Shadow Chancellor. In Opposition the party needs a brilliant Chairman and it doesn’t need a confused structure. CCHQ isn’t as innovative with the web as it should be. George understands the internet and could change that. He has the confidence of the leader. He enjoys politics and opposition. He should become Chairman.
Idea #2 in this series: David Cameron should not renew George Osborne’s spending pledge