On New Year’s Day we identified George Osborne as the Conservative to watch this year.  He has the task of eroding Gordon Brown’s reputation for economic competence – the one thing keeping Labour afloat in a sea of broken promises.

In a speech to the London School of Economics today, Mr Osborne will begin his campaign to kill Brown’s reputation once-and-for-all.  He will accuse the First Lord of the Treasury of squandering ten good economic years and of failing to prepare Britain for the tougher times now arriving:

"Our competitors used the fat years to prepare for the lean years.
Britain did not.  We are the least prepared country in
the developed world to cope with the current financial turbulence.  [Gordon Brown] didn’t fix the roof when the sun was shining. His 11 budgets have left us with the worst public finances in Europe."

In advance coverage of the speech the Daily Mail reports that Mr Osborne wants Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, to have his appointment reconfirmed immediately.  The Mail suggests that Gordon Brown only wants Mr King to have another three years as Governor rather than the customary full five year term.  Mr Osborne thinks reappointment now will help settle jittery financial markets:

"There is plenty of uncertainty out there. There is plenty of uncertainty about inflation, there is plenty of uncertainty about the turbulence on the financial markets. One area of uncertainty you could end today would be to simply say Mervyn King is going to be reappointed."

According to The Times, "The Shadow Chancellor will issue an explicit pledge that a future Conservative administration would not run a deficit on the government’s current account during sustained periods of economic growth. “We must reform the failed fiscal rules so that never again do we borrow in a boom.”"

Related links: George Osborne was interviewed at 7.17am on this morning’s Today programme.and yesterday, on Platform, ‘Voice from the City’ asked if the end is nigh for the lender of last resort.

11.30am: Download a PDF of George Osborne’s speech.

This is the key quote: "Britain is not prepared if rainy days lie ahead.  And the blame lies squarely and fairly with Gordon Brown.  His eleven budgets have left us with the worst public finances in Europe. The system of financial oversight he personally insisted on left Britain as the only country facing a run on the bank. His taxes and regulations have left the British economy more inflexible and less competitive. Gordon Brown likes to quote the Bible.  But he obviously doesn’t know about the story in Genesis of the Pharaoh who was warned to use the seven fat years to prepare for the seven lean years – and did.  Well our Prime Minister was also warned in the fat years to prepare for the lean years – but he set nothing aside.  Now most say the lean years are here, the cupboard is bare and Britain is vulnerable. We’ve got used over the last decade to Gordon Brown boasting about his reputation for economic competence.  But his actions betray him.  It is his economic incompetence and fiscal incontinence that have left Britain more exposed than any other developed economy to the current crisis."

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