In today’s Spectator, Fraser Nelson details the responsibilities of George Osborne beyond those of Shadow Chancellor – co-ordinating for the next general election and managing party policy.
Nelson notes of the last of these roles the degree to which the Shadow Chancellor is also now the de facto head of policy:
"Mr Osborne’s third job is de facto party policy chief and, in this capacity, he has effectively supplanted his former boss in the Tory Treasury team, Oliver Letwin, who now defers to him in policy meetings. Such is his stature that shadow cabinet members grumble about being outranked even by Mr Osborne’s aides, who have accrued the de facto power to approve or reject proposals in his absence.
"The only consolation is that Team Osborne includes perhaps the best and brightest in the Tory party — an elite squad including Matt Hancock, Eleanor Shawcross, Rohan Silva and Rupert Harrison — whose members are seconded from time to time to other party responsibilities. Few shadow cabinet members could dream of gathering around them such a staff."
Nelson suggests a clearer focus from Osborne on the Treasury role would be preferable:
"A year ago it looked as if Mr Osborne could do all three jobs standing on his head. Now, none is going well. Take policy development. An email was sent out from Tory HQ earlier this week blaming Lord Mandelson for the increased number of Labour initiatives getting into the newspapers. To counter this, a request was made for a ‘strong and steady flow of our own policy ideas to release between now and Christmas’. And in the true Cameroon spirit of recycling, such ideas ‘do not necessarily need to be brand new’. Hardly the battle roar of a party brimming with intellectual energy.
"It is not that Mr Osborne lacks talent: quite the opposite. Staff in Tory central office say he brings clarity and enthusiasm to campaigning strategy. Those who attend policy meetings report that he is an indispensable corrective to Mr Letwin, who tends to complicate things. Yet there remains widespread confusion about who does what at the top of the Tory hierarchy, thanks to the Cameroons’ penchant for doubling up and doing each other’s jobs. Rumours swirl about tensions among them, and yet another reorganisation of the Conservative Research Department is now on the cards."